There are reports in Washington that President Donald Trump may soon be given the chance to fill yet another seat at the Supreme Court.
And the decision may come down to how the 2020 election plays out.
According to The Hill, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas – the longest-serving current member of the nation’s highest court – may be at least considering retirement.
But not under his own volition … but as a hedge in case Trump were to lose to Joe Biden.
Should Biden win, Thomas would have to commit to staying on the bench another 4 years (the length Biden’s term), at a minimum, if he hopes to be replaced by a likeminded conservative jurist.
As a result, The Hill reports that there’s currently an “unsubstantiated whisper campaign” in Washington about Thomas – although his friends insist he has no plans to quit.
“He will die on the court,” close friend Armstrong Williams told the website.
But The Hill also notes the court’s long history of the “strategic retirement” to ensure continuity.
Since 1968, only two justices have retired while the opposing party controlled the White House, and in both cases were forced out due to health issues.
Thomas’ supporters say they don’t want to see him go, for any reason.
“He’s our best justice,” Phillip Jauregui of Judicial Action Group told OneNewsNow. “I hope he’ll keep serving a long time.”
While insiders doubt Thomas is retiring, there are other hints that something is changing for him.
Typically reclusive, Thomas tends to avoid the spotlight, rarely speaking even during Supreme Court arguments.
Yet he recently cooperated with filmmakers to produce a reflective two-hour film about his life’s journey from poverty to the highest court in the land. “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” aired on PBS earlier this month.
And while he’s not the oldest member of the court, he’s not young. He’s 71… or right around the average retirement age for Supreme Court justices over the past century (73.6).
He’s also the court’s longest-serving member, with 28 years on the bench –– also right at the average for Supreme Court retirement (27 years).
So while his friends might not expect him to retire, it certainly wouldn’t come as too big of a shock if he does, giving Trump a third vacancy in his first term.
Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton filled just two each over eight years.
Obama tried for a third in his final year after the surprise death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, but his selection of Merrick Garland was famously blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
McConnell famously said it was because Obama was in his final year – and that the voters should be allowed to choose who fills that seat via the election.
But Republicans say the situation is very different this time around.
“You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – chair of the Judiciary Committee, which would hold the hearings for any appointment – told Greta Van Susteren this month. “A situation where you’ve got them both would be different. I don’t want to speculate, but I think appointing judges is a high priority for me in 2020.”
Graham’s colleagues agreed.
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“We’re going to fill it” if there is one, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. told Politico. “With Justice Scalia … people might not have thought he was the one, because he wasn’t the oldest at the time. You just never know.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicated animosity off the charts.
“If you thought the Kavanaugh hearing was contentious this would probably be that on steroids,” he told the website. “Nevertheless, if the president makes a nomination then it’s our responsibility to take it up.”
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert, and is the author of “America’s Final Warning.”