Senator Edward M. Kennedy released the following statement on the passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist:
“This is a time of great loss for our nation. Vicki and I join the nation in mourning the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and we hold his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.
Chief Justice Rehnquist served this country with the greatest distinction, and I respected his leadership of the federal judiciary and his strong commitment to the integrity and independence of the courts.
We are at a defining moment for the nation. In the midst of great loss and great tragedy, it is a time for America to come together. As we have so many times before, we will continue to move America forward. Our first priority must be to remain focused on relieving the suffering of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding those lives, those cities and those communities. The nation’s eyes and hearts and attention are and should be focused on the ongoing tragedy in the South.
We must also recognize the importance of choosing two new Supreme Court justices at the same time, who will together help determine the direction of this country for generations to come. We should proceed carefully and appropriately in filling these important vacancies. With Justice O’Connor committing to stay until her replacement is named, we can and should remain focused first on protecting our citizens who need help the most, while we prepare to do what is necessary to ensure that the Supreme Court remains strongly committed and able to protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans.”