Washington Facing the possibility of two Supreme Court vacancies, the Senate appears headed toward a long, hot summer, politically speaking, that threatens to push other legislative business aside.
When the chamber reconvenes today, its first order of business is expected to be a bipartisan effort, in the aftermath of the bombings in London, to increase funding for mass-transit security.
Congressional leaders also have ambitious hopes of working out House-Senate differences on an overhaul of energy policy and a highway bill - along with completing a draft of Social Security legislation - before they break for their August recess.
But all that is expected to be overshadowed by the looming fight over the Supreme Court, where the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has created the first vacancy in 11 years.
"Some issues will be crowded out," Don Stewart, an aide to Senate Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Sunday. "But frankly, it's up to the Democrat leadership: They can cooperate and have full, thorough hearings followed by floor debates and a vote, or they can shut the place down until Christmas and explain to their constituents why other priorities were not completed."
As President Bush prepares his list of potential candidates, he is scheduled to meet Tuesday at the White House with key senators from both parties.