William Rehnquist's retirement announcement hasn't come yet, and the president probably won't ask him for advice when it does. But just the same, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is offering up the names of some people he'd like to see George W. Bush nominate to the Supreme Court, and they're not from the usual short lists.
"We have had approximately 10 members of the Supreme Court that came from the United States Senate over the years," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "There are people who serve in the Senate now who are Republicans who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members."
Reid's list: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.
Graham and DeWine are both members of the "Gang of 14," the senators who struck last month's deal on judicial nominees. That compromise averted the Republicans' "nuclear option," but Reid knows that the Senate could be right back at the brink if Bush picks a Supreme Court nominee that Democrats deem too extreme for confirmation. Thus, it's in Reid's interest -- in keeping an extremist judge off the court and in preserving minority rights in the Senate -- to push for the kind of nominee that Democrats could confirm. Given senators' usual deference to senators, a nominee from within the body would likely get a smoother ride to confirmation than a similar nominee from outside it. See John Ashcroft, nomination of.
Still, there are limits to what collegiality will get you, and the brevity of Reid's short list indicates as much. Orrin Hatch earned his J.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, but we didn't see his name on Reid's list. And Rick Santorum, who graduated from the Dickinson School of Law in 1986, isn't there, either.