If two U.S. Supreme Court vacancies materialize this spring, they may have the same impact on the nation’s capital that two heavy snowfalls have had this month: gridlock, paralysis and frayed tempers.

Stories raising the possibility that justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg may leave at roughly the same time have suddenly become part of the Washington conversation, already fueling nightmare scenarios of dragged-out battles between a weakened President Barack Obama and a fiercely contentious Senate over possible replacements.

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