Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.
We are introducing a new series here on Right Wing Watch as the GOP’s obstructionism reaches a new low, with many Republican leaders now claiming that whomever President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court should receive absolutely no consideration from senators, despite their duties as outlined in the Constitution.
In response to the Supreme Court blockade, we will be putting together a weekly update on the Right’s response to the current Supreme Court vacancy.
5) Federalist Society Fine With A Perpetual Vacancy
Originally, Republicans insisted that they were simply upholding a recently-discovered tradition where the Senate refuses to consider Supreme Court nominees in election years.
However, since this tradition doesn’t actually exist, conservatives have become more honest about what’s really going on: they just don’t like the fact that Obama is president.
At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Dean Reuter of the Federalist Society, a major right-wing legal group, commended the Senate GOP leadership for refusing to consider whomever Obama nominates to fill the vacancy. When asked if Republicans should continue to block hearings if the next president is a Democrat, Reuter said he is fine leaving the seat open indefinitely:
There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as ten at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the Court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.
Unless, of course, a Republican is elected president.
4) Ron Johnson Gives Away The Game
Apparently, the fictitious no-appointments-in-an-election-year tradition only applies to Democratic presidents, at least according to Sen. Ron Johnson.
The Wisconsin Republican said in a radio interview yesterday that “it’d be a different situation” if a GOP president was appointing a justice to the bench, saying that the Senate Republicans would show “more accommodation” to a Republican president.
Johnson might be interested in hearing from his voters: A recent poll found that 62 percent of Wisconsinites say the open Supreme Court seat should be filled this year, and 76 percent “think the Senate should at least see who gets put forward before making a decision on whether they should be confirmed.”
3) ‘We Are Setting A Precedent Here Today’
At least one Republican senator is honest enough to admit that the Republicans don’t have Senate history on their side.
Sen. Lindsey Graham told a Judiciary Committee meeting that the GOP is about to create a new precedent by refusing to even consider a nominee from President Obama, as the Huffington Post reports:
One of the Republican Party's most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.
And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.
"We are setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year at least of a lame duck eight-year term -- I would say it’s going to be a four-year term -- that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today," Graham said in an unusual session of the Judiciary Committee, where members debated not bills or judicial nominees, but Obama's right to carry out his constitutional powers in an election year.
"We're headed to changing the rules, probably in a permanent fashion," he said.
Nonetheless, Graham said that “he still supports Grassley's decision not to hold hearings for Obama's nominee.”
2) ‘It’s A Political Argument’
While Senate Republicans insist that they aren’t inserting partisanship into the Supreme Court fight and are simply following tradition, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said at CPAC that the fight is all about winning “a political clash.”
In video provided by Democracy Partners and Americans United for Change, King said that he supports the actions of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley “as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment.”
1) Who Cares About The Sixth Amendment?
It seems that the GOP is not only ignoring the Constitution’s “advice and consent” requirement but also the heart of the Sixth Amendment.
In a taste of things to come, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network took to the National Review to attack a possible Supreme Court nominee, Judge Jane Kelly, for having once worked as a defense attorney.
That’s right, Severino seemed to suggest that it is disqualifying that Kelly worked as a defense attorney because her past clients include people accused of vicious crimes.
Of course, everyone accused of a crime isn’t necessarily guilty, and according to the Sixth Amendment, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” and “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
Severino’s outrageous article is also an opportunity to point out that her group, the Judicial Crisis Network, was originally named the Judicial Confirmation Network when it was founded during the Bush administration for the purpose of advocating for the smooth confirmation of judges.