Is it hard to do cartwheels over President Obama’s choice of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland today. Professor Epstein seems to think he’s a good liberal…
… but you always have to question the methodology of these things.
Merrick Garland is 63 years old and currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, Garland was nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 76-23. Sen. Orrin Hatch remarked at the time that Garland was “not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from [the Clinton] administration.” He’s actually pretty conservative on police issues and war on terror. But he’s no threat to Roe v Wade.
Sure, Garland is smart. And qualified. But if the tables were turned, and it was a Republican president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I don’t think the judicial candidate would have been so…. moderate.
I mean, I get it. Everyone gets it. Obama is picking a guy who has already been approved by the Senate for his current judicial gig, who is not an ideologue, etc. This forces Senate Republicans to consider AND approve the nominee, or look like the reason why Washington sucks so bad. Also, with a Clinton presidency looming, Republicans might just want to get Garland and not get someone far more liberal. (In fact, a President Trump could pick a liberal judge for all anybody knows).
In other words. holding out for another Scalia just might get Republicans a lefty version of Scalia.
Over at 538, they did some quick calculations and determined what the future might look like:
Facing those possibilities, confirming Garland, might just be the best thing the GOP could do. You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.
And the other hand, I get annoyed at this (if it is true):
— Renee Montagne (@nprmontagne) March 16, 2016
Why would Obama capitulate to the Republicans when he has them over a barrel?
In the end, it seems that Obama has made a pragmatic choice. And let’s face it. It saves the Court. And if it doesn’t, it makes the GOP look horrible.
Early indications are that the right wing is bent on looking obstructionist, even in the face of a reasonable moderate candidate. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable. Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed” with the nomination of Garland and that we are “one liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics on the
“serious questions” he said their were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.” And anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, although they struggled to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.
Aaaaand as I write this, it looks like the Senate Republicans are taking the bait and biting down hard:
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has called President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, and explained that no action would be taken in the Senate on the nomination, Mr. McConnell’s spokesman said.
Mr. McConnell also informed Judge Garland that they would not be meeting in person at the Capitol.
“Rather than put Judge Garland through more unnecessary political routines orchestrated by the White House, the leader decided it would be more considerate of the nominee’s time to speak with him today by phone,” Mr. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said in a statement.
“The leader reiterated his position that the American people will have a voice in this vacancy and that the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next president nominates. And since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination, he would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.”
“Political routines orchestrated by the White House”? That’s a funny way to say “obligations placed upon the President by the U.S. Constitution”.