Who will be the next chief justice?
Bush has chance to fill two high court seats
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has the rare opportunity to name two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death Saturday of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
"It will serve the best interest of the nation to fill those vacancies promptly," Bush said in a brief message in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
The president said he would move quickly to nominate a "highly qualified" chief justice but offered no clues Sunday as to his choice. (See video of the president's remarks on the court -- 3:39.)
The Bush administration may follow one of three scenarios to replace the chief justice and nominate a second justice, court sources said Sunday.
Bush could ask Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to put off her retirement and serve as chief justice. Earlier this year, O'Connor announced she would retire when her replacement is confirmed.
Court sources see such a move as a "consensus pick" that faces opposition from conservatives. It would still leave O'Connor's associate justice seat open and likely would be a temporary solution.
Bush has nominated John Roberts to replace O'Connor. Roberts' confirmation hearing is set to begin Tuesday, but observers said it is likely to be postponed until after Rehnquist's funeral.
Bush also could elevate a sitting conservative associate justice, such as Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, to chief justice. That option could lead to a contentious hearing, plus two more hearings to fill associate justice seats.
In a third scenario, Bush could appoint someone from outside the court. Sources said a likely short list could include Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson and Michael Luttig from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and former Solicitor General Ted Olsen, who helped argue Bush's side in the 2000 recount case.
After nominating Roberts to replace O'Connor, the president can expect to face pressure to name a woman or a Hispanic to fill the second vacancy. When O'Connor retires, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the only woman on the court.
Bush chose Roberts after interviewing five candidates in person, including Wilkinson and Judge Edith Clement of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report.
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