The prospect of a high court filibuster

THE PROSPECT OF A HIGH COURT FILIBUSTER…. There are no vacancies on the Supreme Court as of now, but Justice John Paul Stevens has signaled his intention to step down sometime in the not-too-distant future. With this in mind, there was some discussion over the weekend about the kind of confirmation battle we can expect to see.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the Senate’s #2 Republican, told “Fox News Sunday” that a GOP filibuster remains a distinct possibility.

“It would — it will all depend on what kind of a person it is…. I think the president will nominate a qualified person. I hope, however, he does not nominate an overly ideological person. That will be the test.”

This isn’t too surprising. Let’s not forget that Kyl, literally just a few days after the 2008 presidential election, started talking about blocking Supreme Court nominees he expected not to like.

Nevertheless, Kyl’s remarks are interesting for a couple of reasons. First, his understated threat is a sign of the times — a Republican Senate leader is speculating on national television about filibustering a nominee who hasn’t been named, in response to a Supreme Court vacancy that doesn’t exist.

Second, as Amanda Terkel noted, Kyl used to reject the very idea of filibustering judicial nominees — back when there was a Republican president. “It has never been the rule that a candidate for judgeship that had majority support was denied the ability to be confirmed once before the Senate,” Kyl insisted on “Meet the Press” five years ago this month.

Indeed, Kyl was one of the conservative Republicans who supported the “nuclear option” in 2005.

That, however, was then.