Dems on Stevens replacement process: Move at the speed of Sotomayor nod

Senate Democrats want confirmation proceedings for a new Supreme Court nominee to take no longer than Sonia Sotomayor’s.

Democrats are already readying arguments and data to press for as quick a confirmation as possible.

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Aides close to the process say they want the confirmation of Stevens’s successor to follow the same general schedule as last year’s debate over Sotomayor — which in turn was patterned after the timeline for Chief Justice John Roberts’s confirmation.

Justice David Souter announced his retirement on May 1 of last year, and Sotomayor’s confirmation vote was held on Aug. 6 — a total of 97 days from the vacancy announcement to the final vote, compared to 90 for Roberts and 95 for Justice Samuel Alito in 2006.

“Sotomayor’s process mirrored that of Roberts, and we’re aiming for the same timeframe,” said one senior Democratic aide.

President Barack Obama on Friday said he wanted the successor to Justice John Paul Stevens to be confirmed so that he could take office by the court’s session beginning in October.


But that’s likely to be difficult for a number of reasons. The healthcare battle has left Republicans and Democrats in a nastier mood, and in an election year both sides will be under pressure from interest groups to draw lines in the sand over a Supreme Court nomination.

In anticipation that Senate Republicans will call for a lengthy, drawn-out confirmation process, Democratic aides point out that since 1981, it has taken an average of 102 days for the Senate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee from the initial announcement of a vacancy.

A similar timeline for Stevens’s successor would put the final vote around mid-July, meaning it should be easy to meet Obama’s request that the justice be seated before the court’s fall term.