HEADLINES -- April 21, 2010 at 8:59 AM ET
Wednesday: Obama to Discuss Supreme Court Pick; GM to Pay Off Loans
A day after President Barack Obama took time out to wish retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens a very happy 90th birthday, he will resume the search for Stevens' successor Wednesday when he invites senators from both parties to the White House to discuss potential nominees.
The president has already begun interviewing several candidates for the Stevens seat, and will be using Wednesday's meetings to gain input from lawmakers. President Obama will want to know, among other things, who on his list will face the least hurdles during confirmation hearings. Attending the sit down will be Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the top Republican on the committee, Jeff Sessions.
Regardless of whom the president picks, Democrats anticipates a "huge battle" in the Senate, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told PBS's Charlie Rose this week.
In some ways, "that realization is liberating for the president," an administration official told Talking Points Memo. "Despite having one less Democrat in the Senate than when Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed last year, the administration isn't limiting itself to reviewing only centrist candidates for the court vacancy," TPM reports.
The meeting comes as "scores of other nominations that the president has made for key posts remain hostage to a Senate procedure known as the hold," reports NPR's David Welna. "As the week began, 99 of Obama's executive and judicial branch nominees were stalled by holds, in some cases for more than a year," he points out.
Confirmation battles aside, Justice Stevens will be tough to replace, opines Christopher Eisgruber in the Los Angeles Times. "If the president is looking for another brilliant lawyer to join the court's liberal wing, he might succeed," writes Eisgruber. "If, however, he wants to find someone with the kind of quirky independence that Stevens demonstrated for much of his judicial career, the president has little or no chance. The constitutional landscape has changed too much."
E.R. Shipp at the Root says he's "hoping President Barack Obama sticks to his values as he nominates a new justice to the U.S. Supreme Court." Of course, even if the president gets his top choice, it could all come back to haunt Democrats, Scripp writes in a brief history of court picks gone astray.
All of the reported leading names on the president's list are stellar candidates, says the New Republic. "But replacing Justice Stevens will not alter the present conservative composition of the Court. So the question remains: Will we see a return to the constitutional conflicts of the 1930s, when the Supreme Court launched an assault on FDR's New Deal, until he struck back by threatening to pack the Court. Anything is possible, but in the end, we are skeptical."
GM to Pay Off Loans
General Motors on Wednesday is expected to announce that it will pay off a combined $5.8 billion in loans from both the U.S. and Canadian governments. Since its emergence from the fourth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history last summer, GM is working to demonstrate that it is healthy enough to survive without government aid. Currently, the government owns a 61 percent stake in the company.
Meantime, Chrysler released its first accounting since emerging from bankruptcy in June. The automaker, now partially owned by Italy's Fiat SpA, lost $3.78 billion in the second half of last year. In a somewhat positive sign, though, the company reported more than $7 billion in cash on hand, as well as a slim operating profit of $143 million.
European Airports Reopen, but Backlog Remains
Europe's airports are open after six days of heavy disruption due to volcanic ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Eurocontrol, the continent's air traffic agency, said about 75 percent of flights are due to resume. However, as Ray Suarez reported on Tuesdays NewsHour, an enormous backlog remains. More than 100,000 flights have been canceled over the past week at an estimated cost of $1.7 billion to the airline industry. Officials say it could take weeks before flight schedules are back to normal.