Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Flipping The Script On SCOTUS

President Obama is working on his selection for a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia, and everyone is wondering who it will be.

President Barack Obama has held preliminary discussions with his team about whom to nominate to the Supreme Court, the White House said on Monday, while accusing Senate Republicans of "bluster" for saying they would not confirm his pick.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters administration officials had started talking with Senate offices about the process, which is shaping up to be an epic fight between Republicans and Democrats in a presidential election year.

Republicans, who control the Senate, say Obama should put off naming a replacement for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, and leave it to the next president to decide. Democrats say it is the president's responsibility and right to make the choice.

Americans will choose a new president in the Nov. 8 elections. Obama leaves office in January 2017.

Scalia's death leaves the court evenly divided between liberal and conservative justices just as it is set to decide major cases on abortion, voting rights and immigration.

A growing number of Republican senators have already said they will not support an Obama nominee, including a dozen who are up for reelection in November. On Monday, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio each announced their opposition. Both are up for reelection this year.

“This is not the first time that Republicans have come out with a lot of bluster, only to have reality ultimately sink in,” Schultz said, citing recent spats over raising the U.S. debt limit and approving a nuclear deal with Iran.

At each pass, they took a hard line. They tried to play politics. But ultimately, they were not able to back up their threats," Schultz said.

So we've reached an interesting situation: unlike the GOP's ultimately doomed debt ceiling and shutdown games, a liberal majority of Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and another Obama selection would absolutely change the direction of the Supreme Court for decades, especially if Justice Ginsburg can retire and be replaced by an Obama successor in the future.  That would cement a liberal bent to the high court for years, and Republicans would be insane to allow that.  They'd be obliterated by their base and replaced in the Senate with people even crazier.

It's a battle that neither side can afford to lose.  So who does President Obama nominate, knowing that his pick has no chance whatsoever of even getting a vote, knwing there's the possibility that there will still be a GOP Senate and a Democratic President 11 months from now.  What then?

Does he go for broke with a boldly liberal jurist? Does he put forward a consensus choice who is eminently qualified but would ultimately have no chance, giving up their opportunity for the high court?  Does he put forward a moderate, Kennedy-style justice who would potentially be a wild card?

I honestly don't know.  I do trust the President's choice though, becuase he's beaten the GOP time and time again  Can he win in a way that finally motivates the Democratic base to turn out and flip the Senate and SCOTUS?

I sincerely hope so.

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