Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about the healthcare reform bill that will be signed into law in the coming days. A more interesting question, and one more relevant to this blog, is what effect its passage might have on a potential Supreme Court vacancy this summer.

Because of his victory yesterday, the President is as popular as ever within his party but has seen his numbers sink with the general population. Yesterday’s vote saw the President finally shed his veneer of bipartisanship and all signs point to the fact that he’d rather make his next move an uncontroversial one. The nomination of Judge Wood or even a dark horse like Kathleen Sullivan would further inflame a Republican base that will soon be raising support (read: $$$) on the President’s healthcare bill. The nomination of Elena Kagan would be a comparatively uncontroversial nomination because she doesn’t have the same paper trail that most politicians or judges have accumulated.

Liberals in his party hope that the President feels liberated by the healthcare vote. In their view, the President no longer needs the capital that he was saving for the healthcare vote and can now make the ambitious ‘Scalia-like’ nomination that they were clamoring for last year. Even in Washington, where the next election start as soon as the previous one ends, a nomination in the summer of 2010 is a long way from the November 2012 election.

Of course, this administration has always been nervous about courting controversy. The President is likely to see the immediate post-HCR period as a time for reconciliation and he’d certainly prefer a vacancy next summer instead of in his weakened position today. The President would have a tough time recovering from HCR and a controversial nomination four months later. Whatever his decision, passage of the healthcare bill yesterday is likely to have a very real effect on the President’s decision.


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