- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Tense moment

The mystery surrounding Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist‘s future took much of the attention yesterday as the Supreme Court finished its business with no retirements.

Justice Rehnquist is 80 and has been battling thyroid cancer. He chose not to make any comments about his plans while in court, although he appeared weak, the Associated Press reports.

The chief justice, who uses a trachea tube, had difficulty as he announced the final ruling of the term — his opinion that upheld a Ten Commandments display in Texas. His breathing was labored, and he kept the explanation short.

Yesterday morning, hundreds of people had waited for seats in the courtroom, including some who camped out overnight on blankets. The atmosphere in court was tense, as spectators leaned forward in their seats trying to hear Justice Rehnquist’s closing remarks.

Justice Rehnquist, sometimes taking long pauses, announced the Oct. 3 starting date for the fall session and thanked the staff for outstanding work.

He then gaveled the session to a close, stood up slowly and leaned on the back of his leather chair as he turned away from the audience, stepped carefully down a few steps and disappeared behind the court’s massive curtains along with his fellow justices.

Desperate liberals

“It is a true sign of desperate times when liberals are fretting over the expected retirement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist,” Jonathan Turley said yesterday in an opinion piece in USA Today.

“It is not that they have come to love Rehnquist — once called the ‘Lone Ranger’ for his strident conservative dissents on the Warren Court. Yet, liberals have learned that there are actually judges to the right of Rehnquist, a number of whom are on the short list to replace him. It is like Luke Skywalker celebrating the demise of the Emperor, only to learn that he was considered the mild-mannered runt of the litter,” said Mr. Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

Bloomberg’s pals

“Several city Democrats rushed to their phones last week to complain to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean after [New York Mayor Michael R.] Bloomberg held a semisecret meeting with some top Dem money-raisers,” the New York Daily News reports.

“Some of the Democratic mayoral campaigns were angry after word leaked from Bloomberg-friendly quarters that the mayor met with major Democratic donors at a sitdown organized by Bloomberg pal Steve Rattner — who’s also married to the DNC finance chairwoman,” reporters Michael Saul and Maggie Haberman said.

“Some hoped Dean would make some gesture committing to the race or put pressure on the Dems who were at the meeting. Late Friday, Dean put out a statement that made zero mention of the Rattner-Bloomberg meeting, saying only that the party will work hard in the fall ‘to put a Democratic mayor in Gracie Mansion.’

“‘After all, New Yorkers do not need a mayor who worked to re-elect George W. Bush.’

“But beyond that, Dean’s hands are tied until there’s a Democratic nominee, insiders insisted. ‘There’s not really anything he can do,’ one source said.

“In the meantime, several hope the wave of Democrats sympathetic to Bloomberg will crash. ‘Under Michael Bloomberg, we are living in a red city that should be blue,’ said Democratic strategist Howard Wolfson, who represents the State Democratic Committee. ‘As a Democrat, I think that’s a problem, and hope that other Democrats do, too.’”

Seeking another term

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison officially announced yesterday that she will seek a third full term, saying she could have beaten Texas Gov. Rick Perry next year, but decided she could better serve the state by staying in the Senate.

The 61-year-old senator denied being pressured by Republican officials to avoid a primary race against the governor.

“I disagreed with those who say that somehow a primary contest would be bad for the Republican Party,” Mrs. Hutchison said. “I am convinced that parties in power should never fear serious primary contests.”

Mrs. Hutchison said she wanted to stay in Washington to work on federal issues such as homeland security and tax relief, the Associated Press reports. She is in line to rise to the No. 3 position in the Republican Senate leadership after the 2006 elections.

Mrs. Hutchison, who had publicly wavered for months whether to challenge Mr. Perry, quietly issued a press release June 17, saying she would not run against the governor.

Court prevails

A proposal to rewrite the Kansas Constitution to limit the state Supreme Court’s power has failed in the Legislature, thwarting an effort by Republican leaders to fight a court order to provide more money for public schools.

The state’s highest court earlier this month directed legislators to provide an additional $143 million in education funding by July 1. Most Republicans think the court exceeded its constitutional authority.

The proposed constitutional change would have declared that courts and the executive branch have no authority to tell legislators to appropriate money or to redirect funds after they have been allotted by lawmakers.

The House voted 70-53 on Sunday to adopt the measure, but it fell 14 votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary in the 125-member chamber, the Associated Press reports. The Senate already had adopted it.

Approval in the lower chamber would have put it on the ballot Aug. 30.

Most Democrats and a few Republicans sided with the court, saying lawmakers instead should concentrate on devising a plan to meet the court’s order.

“We don’t change the constitution in the heat of the moment,” said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, who voted against the amendment. “You should have some time to temper your anger.”

The Supreme Court’s June 3 directive was part of a six-year-old lawsuit from Dodge City and Salina, where parents and administrators say Kansas spends too little money on education and distributes its aid unfairly, shortchanging poor children, minorities and struggling students.

The ‘black track’

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. gets that Democratic presidential candidates sometimes have to reach out to what Howard Dean bluntly called ‘guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.’ But how to woo blacks, too? Have Bill Clinton campaign for candidates in black neighborhoods,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“I’d put him on what I call the ‘black track,’” Mr. Jackson told the magazine.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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