The departure of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens adds a crucial task to the Senate schedule, at a minimum, and could peel momentum from looming climate legislation if his successor triggers a searing political fight.
Stevens’ announcement arrived more than a week before the anticipated release of a Senate bill restricting greenhouse gases. That timing clouds the chamber’s legislative horizon by handing senators a top White House priority in the months leading to contentious midterm campaigning.
That leaves climate change — still competing for attention with Obama’s other big priorities, like an overhaul of Wall Street and a comprehensive jobs bill — in limbo. The climate bill being drafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) would need to gain swift support to outpace the encompassing confirmation of a life-serving justice, according to some observers.