Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.
Unable to come up with any honest attacks against Judge Merrick Garland’s record, conservatives continue to try to find new ways to justify the Republican leadership’s refusal to even hold hearings on Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. At least one activist, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, even suggested that the Second Amendment was designed in part to stop people like Garland.
Here are the five most ridiculous conservative pro-obstruction arguments of the week:
5) The NRA Rule
Mitch McConnell continues to move the goalposts on his party’s Supreme Court blockade. First, the Republican leader flatly declared that the Senate would not consider any nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court until a new president is in office.
Then, in an interview on Sunday with Fox News, McConnell added a new caveat, declaring that as long as Republicans hold a majority, the Senate would not confirm Garland because he is facing opposition from conservative groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Rifle Association.
McConnell’s comments are particularly revealing, as he and other Republicans have insisted that their Supreme Court blockade isn’t about politics but is about a (nonexistent) Senate tradition to refuse to hold confirmation votes for Supreme Court nominees during election years.
If McConnell was taking this stance truly out of principle rather than partisanship, there would be no need to cite pressure from the NFIB and NRA. His statement also seems to imply that Republicans may obstruct any nominee if a Democrat succeeds Obama, seeing that the two right-wing groups are unlikely to support anyone nominated by a Democratic president.
4) Perpetual Obstructionism
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly appears to be on the side of those who think that only a Republican president should be allowed to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
She told Armed America Radio this week that Senate Republicans need to clearly state that “we don’t want any new nominee on the court until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia.”
“The Court can continue to function indefinitely with fewer than nine Justices, as it has many times in our history,” Schlafly wrote in an op-ed. She then suggested that if a Republican becomes president, a Republican Senate could use the opportunity to pack the court with more than nine justices:
If Republicans elect the next president and retain control of Congress, there will be plenty of time to add new Justices to the Supreme Court. One scholar proposed expanding the size of the Court to 11 or more Justices, since a larger Court reduces the likelihood that any single appointee would fundamentally change the Court’s direction.
In addition to controlling the size of the Supreme Court, Congress could also authorize the President to nominate new Justices on a regular timetable — say, one during each two-year term of Congress. Under that system, a new Justice would join the Supreme Court every two years, regardless of whether an existing Justice dies or retires during that period.
3) If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Anti-choice activists are desperately trying to find reasons to oppose Garland’s nomination.
First, abortion rights opponents expressed outrage that Garland attended a book party celebrating the release of journalist Linda Greenhouse’s biography of Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Now the outlet has LifeSiteNews run an article alleging that Garland “ruled against Priests for Life in a case involving the HHS mandate.”
Garland, however, wasn’t one of the three judges on the D.C. Circuit to hear Priests for Life’s challenge to the contraception mandate. LifeSiteNews was angry that Garland voted against rehearing the case — the three judge panel ruled unanimously against Priests for Life — before the full court of appeals, or an en banc review.
As Paul wrote, such a vote does not constitute a ruling against the group, despite LifeSiteNews’ claim:
A vote for or against en banc review, absent an accompanying opinion, does not necessarily tell you anything about why the judge voted that way. In fact, several of the judges wrote or joined lengthy opinions explaining why they were for or against an en banc review. Chief Judge Garland joined none of them. Neither did George W. Bush nominee Thomas Griffith or Clinton nominee David Tatel, both of whom voted along with Chief Judge Garland not to rehear the case. The majority of the court voted against en banc review, so we don’t know how Garland would have voted on the merits of the case.
The challenge to the contraception mandate was inevitably headed to the Supreme Court as several other circuit courts heard similar challenges. Indeed, the high court heard arguments on the Zubik case earlier this week.
2) He’s An Extremist!
After President Obama took office, the Judicial Confirmation Network changed its name to the Judicial Crisis Network and changed its mission from encouraging the speedy confirmation of judicial nominees to advocating for obstructionism and no-votes.
Unsurprisingly, the group, like some of its allies in the conservative movement, is also changing its tune on Garland.
Just six years ago, JCN spokesperson Carrie Severino hinted that her group wouldn’t put up much of a fight if Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court. “[O]f those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland,” Severino told the Washington Post at the time. “He’s the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.”
Fast forward six years, and all of a sudden JCN is attacking Garland as a left-wing extremist in this new web ad:
1) ‘The Second Amendment Is All About People Like Judge Garland’
Conservative groups have repeatedly claimed that Garland opposed a challenge to a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and supported a national gun registry.
“He voted against Dick Heller,” Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt said on “Trunews” this week. “He voted against the idea that any citizen of the District of Columbia has an individual right to keep and bear arms.” “He also voted to uphold Bill Clinton’s registration scheme,” he added, claiming that the judge’s track record demonstrates “opposition to the Second Amendment.”
However, Garland did not rule on the merits of the Heller case and he never came anywhere close to approving a national gun registry, as Pratt alleged.
“This is the guy that has been told to us by many folks, including the president, that ‘this is a moderate,’” Pratt said. “Well, I guess in the Kremlin there are moderates but that’s not the kind of moderate we need on the Supreme Court.”
Then, Pratt issued a veiled warning to Garland similar to those he has given Democratic officials whom he considers anti-Second Amendment. When the program’s host, Rick Wiles, asked if Garland would shift “the balance of power” on the court against the Second Amendment, Pratt responded: “Judicially, it’s in a heap of trouble. Happily, the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland so there is a limit to how far he can go, I think.”