Supreme Court

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

Chuck Grassley On Judicial Confirmations: 'Let's Do Our Jobs.' (But That Was 2005)

While discussing the confirmation of judges, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had a message for his fellow senators: “Let’s do our jobs.” But that was 2005.

Eleven years ago, with a Republican in the White House, Grassley was emphatic that the Senate act quickly on the president’s judicial nominations, telling colleagues that slowing down the confirmation process was “like being a bully on the schoolyard playground.”

According to Grassley in 2005, for the Senate to do its job, George W. Bush’s nominees would have to receive up-or-down votes. Today, apparently, doing his job as chairman of the Judiciary Committee does not even include holding hearings on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

One wonders what 2005 Chuck Grassley would say to his 2016 self. In April of that year, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Grassley told host Chris Matthews that “every nominee should have an opportunity to have an up-or-down vote.”

That same month in a statement on his website titled “Talking Judges to Death,” the Iowa senator wrote, “It’s time to make sure all judges receive a fair vote on the Senate floor.”

Grassley continued to make his case during a May speech on the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “It’s high time to make sure all judges receive a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”

In the same speech, he complained that he and his colleagues were being “denied an opportunity to carry out their constitutional responsibility,” telling the Senate, “That is simply not right. The Constitution demands an up-or-down vote. Fairness demands an up-or-down vote.”

Grassley charged that Democrats wanted “to grind the judicial process to a halt for appellate court nominees so they can fill the bench with individuals who have been rubberstamped by leftwing extreme groups.”

In 2005 Democrats opposed a small number of nominees based on their extreme ideologies. In contrast, Grassley and today’s Republicans have made it clear that they will oppose anyone nominated by Obama, no matter their qualifications or ideology, essentially seeking to undo the 2012 presidential election.

Today the only rationale for Grassley’s own intransigence is fear of the far right and their demand that Republicans obstruct the president’s Supreme Court appointment.

Grassley’s advocacy for the Senate doing its job did not stop in the spring of 2005. In September of that year, after President Bush appointed John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Grassley cited Alexander Hamilton in claiming that “the purpose of our activities here of confirming people for the courts” was “to make sure that people who were not qualified did not get on the courts. In other words, only qualified people get appointed to the courts and that political hacks do not get appointed to the courts.”

He noted that “maybe there is some historian around who will say Grassley has it all wrong.”

In that same speech he stated that the president “had a mandate to appoint whom he wanted appointed, as long as they were not political hacks and as long as they were qualified” and that the president had “primacy in the appointments to the Supreme Court.”

In January 2006, with the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, Grassley put out a press release that once again cited Alexander Hamilton:

The Constitution provides that the President nominates a Supreme Court Justice, and the Senate provides its advice and consent, with an up or down vote.  In Federalist 66, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “it will be the office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint.  There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate.  They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose – they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made.”

Citations of Hamilton, calls for the Senate to do its job, discussions of “constitutional responsibility” are now a faded memory.

If Chuck Grassley did recall his words from that year, perhaps he would remember his statement that “in my town meetings across Iowa, I hear from people all the time, why aren’t the judges being confirmed?” He went on to claim, “I hear from Iowans all the time that they want to see these nominees treated in a fair manner, and they want to see an up-or-down vote.”

Home for the Senate’s Easter recess, he is now facing these questions from constituents like Randy Waagmeester, who told his senator at a town hall, “It’s not fair for this man not to get a hearing.”

Another of Grassley’s constituents, Glenda Schrick, told her senator, “There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says we can’t have a hearing and then vote yea or nay, so that we don’t constantly have it thrown at us as Republicans that all we say is ‘no.’”

However, these interactions will be few for the Iowa senator. According to the Des Moines Register “only three of his 19 planned events are publicly announced town hall meetings — and they’re happening in the three most heavily Republican counties in the state in terms of voter registration.”

Instead of running from these challenges, Grassley should simply follow his own admonition from more than a decade ago, come back to Washington, tell his Republican colleagues “let’s do our jobs” and get to work confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Gohmert: Supreme Court Tried To Play God In Gay Marriage Ruling

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, sat in for Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio program, where he chatted with conservative attorney Ken Klukowski about the supposed attacks on religious freedom in the U.S.

After warning that liberals are trying to stop Christians from practicing their faith openly in America, he repeated his claim that the Supreme Court justices declared themselves God when they handed down last year’s marriage equality ruling:

Last summer, the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case did what they have been building towards since the 1960s, for over 50 years. You take away God from the schools, prayer from the schools, the Bible from the schools; God, the Bible, things where we talk about God or Jesus in an open forum that’s in the public sector. And last summer five justices basically said, ‘Forget what God said according to the Bible, forget what Moses said, God said, forget what Jesus said when he quoted Moses verbatim and said ‘this is what marriage is.’ Basically, to my mind, they were ruling, ‘The five of us, we five Supremes, are now your God.’”

The congressman went on to suggest that the government now believes that it can compel churches to “fund abortion” and seeks to “force churches to do whatever they tell them.”

The Judicial Crisis Network Conveniently Forgets Its Own History

It has been truly remarkable watching the Judicial Crisis Network criss-crossing the country pressuring Republican senators to keep up their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, since during the George W. Bush administration the group was named the Judicial Confirmation Network and promoted the idea that every judicial nominee “deserves an up-or-down vote.”

JCN’s current leaders have been carefully ignoring this history in their effort to prevent the Senate Judiciary Committee from even holding a hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, a situation that reached new heights of absurdity last week when the group’s general counsel, Carrie Severino, let a conservative radio host speculate at length, incorrectly, about why the group might have been named the “Judicial Crisis Network” during the Bush administration.

“Here’s what’s interesting, is you were interestingly named the Judicial Crisis Network” during the Bush administration, radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh mistakenly said during a March 24 interview with Severino.

“It’s interesting you chose that name,” he said, “I don’t know if there was a crisis going on back then, is that when they were threatening Bush about ‘you can’t nominate someone’?”

After repeating misleading claims about Sen. Charles Schumer and then-Sen. Joe Biden’s comments about Supreme Court nominations during the Bush years, Walsh fumed, “You know what I can’t stand is when people can’t even admit that they said stuff and they can’t even admit the truth.”

Severino, rather than correcting Walsh about her organization’s past as the Judicial Confirmation Network, instead complained about people who “repeat the same false facts” until “people take them as true”: “Yeah, you’re entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. If you repeat the same false facts over and over again, sometimes people take them as true, so it’s frustrating.”

“It’s the irony that you can just see the Democrats are willing to say and do whatever it takes to get this fifth vote that they just desperately want a solid liberal block on the court,” she added. “And they’re going to want to deny the people a voice in the process in order to do that. That’s a real shame.”

As we all know, the Judicial Crisis Network would never “repeat false facts”!

Rafael Cruz: 'One More Liberal Justice' Could Allow A Dictator To Turn Guns On Americans

Rafael Cruz, the father and top campaign surrogate of Sen. Ted Cruz, warned in a radio interview today that if “one more liberal justice” is confirmed to the Supreme Court, “we will lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” which could lead to a dictator turning guns against the American people.

“One more liberal justice with that way of thinking and we will lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz said on Breitbart’s SiriusXM program. “And think back in history: Every dictator that has taken the guns away from the population has used them against the population.”

“It is imperative that we elect as president someone that you can be certain that will only nominate to the Supreme Court justices that are committed to following the Constitution and the rule of law, not to legislate from the bench,” he said. “Otherwise, if we lose the court, it may take a whole generation to recover it and I don’t think we have the time.”

Cruz issued a similar warning in November, before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, saying that “praise God there are 300 million guns in American in the hands of private citizens.”

Cruz also repeated his claim that the American public education system is being used by communists to indoctrinate children into “an anti-Christian worldview.”

“What has happened in America is that we have believed this lie of separation of church and state, which is not in the Constitution, is not in the Declaration,” Cruz said. “The total opposite is true. One of the very first Bibles printed in America was printed under the auspices of Congress to be the principal textbook in high schools, primary schools and universities.”

Cruz frequently uses the story about Congress printing Bibles to be used as textbooks in his attempts to refute the idea of church-state separation. The story, unsurprisingly, is a myth promoted by Cruz’s friend, the political operative David Barton, who is running a super PAC backing Ted Cruz’s candidacy.

He went on to say that this all changed when the Humanist Manifesto, an “ominous document,” was signed in 1933, leading to “immorality and chaos and secular humanism.” He then repeated his claim that John Dewey, the public education reformer and signer of the Humanist Manifesto “was a member of the American Communist Party.” (Dewey was in fact an “avowed anti-Communist.”)

All of this, he said, has led to the Common Core educational standards “brainwashing” public school students with an “anti-Christian worldview in an attempt to secularize America.”

“So, since 1933, those concepts of secular humanism have been immersed in our public school system,” he said, “and now, with Common Core, they have been elevated to a new level. And Common Core is not really about standards, it’s about brainwashing our kids with secular humanism, with an anti-Christian worldview, with what’s called situational ethics … And so what has happened is that kids are being brainwashed with this worldview that is an anti-Christian worldview in an attempt to secularize America.”

Ron Johnson Is Taking His SCOTUS Talking Points Straight From Right-Wing Groups

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is one of the Republican senators who is under considerable pressure in his home state to break from his party leadership and consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

So far, Johnson has toed the party line and says that he supports blocking any nominee to the Supreme Court for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. In defending this position, he has turned to a number of stock talking points cooked up by right-wing groups seeking to keep an Obama nominee off the Supreme Court.

As soon as President Obama announced his nomination of Garland, Johnson turned to the talking point that the conservative Judicial Crisis Network has been promoting since soon after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

Johnson’s appeal to let the American people “decide” and give them a “voice” by discounting President Obama’s entire last year in office, comes straight out of the messaging that JCN started hammering in early ads urging obstruction. In JCN’s first ad, a narrator says:

It’s ‘We the People.’ Sometimes the politicians forget that. The Supreme Court has a vacancy and your vote in November is your only voice. Sen. Chuck Grassley agrees: the American people should decide. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about your voice. You choose the next president, the next president chooses the next justice. Call Sen. Chuck Grassley. Thank him for letting the people decide.

Of course, the people already did have a voice in choosing who would pick the next Supreme Court justice when they reelected President Obama for a second four-year term in 2012.

The New York Times reported yesterday on an event in Wisconsin at which Johnson attempted to justify the Senate GOP’s obstructionism by implying that the Constitution’s requirement of “advice and consent” can mean the Senate advising the president not to make any judicial nomination at all:

“Yeah, I am hearing the drumbeat, ‘Do your job! Do your job!’ ” Mr. Johnson said, invoking the Democrats’ battle cry in their quest to get Judge Garland a hearing. “We’re doing our job,” Mr. Johnson declared, to shouts of “yes.”

“Our job as a coequal branch in the nomination process is advise and consent,” he said. “Well, President Obama — surprise — didn’t heed our advice. So now we are doing the second part of that advice and consent: We’re withholding our consent. Completely appropriate.”

This is a talking point that Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a longtime right-wing player in judicial fights, pioneered very soon after the death of Justice Scalia, when he told televangelist Pat Robertson, “The Senate has a role in this, the Constitution says ‘advice and consent.’ The advice here is, ‘Don’t put up a nominee when you’re only going to be the president, you’re a lame duck and you’re only going to be the president for 11 months.’”

We don’t think that refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nominee is what the founders had in mind when they gave the Senate the power of “advice and consent," which is why the GOP leadership’s decision to have the Senate do absolutely nothing in response to a Supreme Court nomination is unprecedented.

According to the Times article, Johnson has also taken to saying that Garland is “hostile” to the Second Amendment:

“Judge Merrick is hostile to your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Mr. Johnson said in Pewaukee, using the judge’s first name. “So I am doing my job to protect the Second Amendment rights of Wisconsinites.”

Johnson’s use of the word “hostile” is no accident. The phrase “hostile to the Second Amendment” is what right-wing groups have settled on to describe Garland’s utterly benign record on gun rights. That’s the exact phrase that the National Rifle Association has been using in its effort to stir up opposition to Garland’s nomination. The “hostile” term seems to have come from an opposition research package put together by the Judicial Crisis Network, which in turn seems to have borrowed the phrase from a 2007 article in the NRA’s magazine.

We outlined last week why the Second Amendment “hostility” argument is bunk.

Senate Republicans seem to have ceded not only their governing, but the very words that come out of their mouths, to right-wing obstructionist groups.

Courting Extremism: Gun Activist Warns Garland While Other Conservatives Reach For New Bogus Attacks

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.”

Pratt: 'The Second Amendment Is All About People Like Judge Garland'

Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, implied this week that Judge Merrick Garland could be assassinated if he continues to rule in “opposition to the Second Amendment,” saying that “the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland, so there is a limit to how far he can go.”

The gun activist made the comments on “Trunews,” an End-Times-themed radio program hosted by Rick Wiles, a notorious right-wing conspiracy theorist. Pratt has delivered similar warnings to other officials who he believes are hostile to the Second Amendment.

Pratt, an activist with ties to the militia movement whose extremist gun group has been heralded by Ted Cruz, repeated two debunked claims about Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, falsely claiming that Garland voted in support of a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and a national gun registry.

“He voted against Dick Heller,” Pratt said. “He voted against the idea that any citizen of the District of Columbia has an individual right to keep and bear arms. This is the guy that has been told to us by many folks, including the president, that ‘this is a moderate.’ Well, I guess in the Kremlin there are moderates but that’s not the kind of moderate we need on the Supreme Court.”

He added: “He also voted to uphold Bill Clinton’s registration scheme in an earlier decision, so his track record is consistent and it’s one of opposition to the Second Amendment.”

This prompted Wiles to ask what would happen to the Second Amendment if Garland were to join the Supreme Court.

“Judicially, it’s in a heap of trouble,” Pratt said. “Happily, the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland, so there is a limit to how far he can go, I think.”

He went on to say that Republicans in Congress should impeach jurists like Garland for their supposed hostility to the Constitution.

Pratt has a history of saying that the Second Amendment is meant to give people the right to assassinate or intimidate leaders they don’t like.

In Pratt’s view, the Second Amendment was created in order to instill in politicians “a healthy fear” in “the back of their minds” that they will be assassinated so “they’ll behave.”

He explicitly told Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that she “should do her job in constant trepidation,” knowing that if she tries “to disarm Americans the way the British crown tried 240 years ago, the same sovereign people who constituted this government using the cartridge box someday may need to reconstitute it, as clearly anticipated by the Declaration of Independence.”

When Alan Colmes asked him if he really does believe that politicians “should have a healthy fear of being shot,” Pratt replied: “Sure, that’s what the Second Amendment is all about.

Despite such rhetoric, Sen. Cruz has diligently courted and raised money for Pratt's group:

Cruz has a close relationship with GOA, boasting of their endorsement at a presidential debate in September, joining a conference call with its members in which he credited the group for his election to the Senate, and appointing the group’s chairman, Tim Macy, to lead the “Second Amendment Coalition” he launched just days after 14 people were shot and killed in San Bernardino, California.

When GOA mobilized to help defeat background check legislation in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the New York Times identified Cruz as the gun group’s “key ally in the Senate.”

JCN Laughably Changes Course In Attempt To Paint Merrick Garland As A 'Liberal Extremist'

Back in 2010, as President Obama was considering possible nominees to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, Judicial Crisis Network attorney Carrie Severino mused, “Of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland," adding that a Garland nomination could bring down “the tension and the politics” surrounding the brewing Supreme Court battle.

It must have been somewhat awkward for Severino, then, when President Obama did nominate Garland for the Supreme Court this year and she had to pivot to claiming that Garland is actually a liberal extremist who should never be confirmed by the Senate.

Of course, the objection that groups like JCN have to Garland’s nomination has nothing to do with the nominee. Instead, conservative groups, led by JCN, were pressuring Senate Republicans to block any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court even before Garland was named.

So it’s been amusing to watch JCN as it grasps for arguments to oppose Garland, the most recent being a web ad that the group is promoting in the home states of vulnerable Republican senators that derides Democrats for calling Garland a “moderate.” Instead, JCN told USA Today, Garland is a “liberal extremist.” The ad claims that under a Supreme Court with the “liberal extremist” Garland as a member, the Second Amendment would be “gutted” and “partial-birth abortion legalized” and Garland would become the “tie-breaking vote for Obama’s big government liberalism.”

We’ve already debunked JCN and its allies’ weak attempts at portraying Garland as “hostile” to gun rights. This is just reinforced by the fact that the only news source JCN could find to cite in its ad about Garland’s supposedly “strong hostility to gun owner rights” is the NRA’s magazine.

The “partial-birth” abortion claim is even more of a puzzle since, as far as we know, Garland has never ruled on the issue. That claim seems to be based entirely on the fact that Garland was nominated by President Obama.

Some conservative groups are not even bothering to claim that Garland is an unacceptable nominee and are instead focusing on bogus procedural arguments against considering his nomination. But JCN, Severino says, has a duty to be “out there combating the spin” about the nominee. That argument would be so much more convincing if the “spin” didn’t so closely resemble what she herself said just six years ago.

Of course, what can you expect from an organization that was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network under President George W. Bush, only to completely change its name and core mission once President Obama took office.

Cruz Gun Adviser: Obama Nominated Garland To 'Ruin The Second Amendment And Destroy This Country'

A top gun-rights adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign claimed this weekend that President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is “his last-ditch effort” to “ruin the Second Amendment and destroy this country.”

Tim Macy, the chairman of the radical gun group Gun Owners of America and co-chair of Cruz’s “Second Amendment Coalition,” discussed the Supreme Court nomination in an interview Sunday with Mark Walters on “Armed America Radio.”

Macy said that Obama has “run up against the wall every time he’s tried” to “destroy the country” with gun restrictions, but that the Supreme Court vacancy is “his last-ditch effort before he leaves office to ruin the Second Amendment and destroy this country with Merrick Garland as his pick.”

Macy falsely claimed that Garland “supported the D.C. gun ban” — in fact, Garland, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., voted to rehear a case involving Washington’s handgun ban, which does not indicate at all where he stood on the merits of the case. In fact, Garland voted the same way as other judges on the court including Judge A. Raymond Randolph, whom Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times once called “one of the most outspoken and agenda-driven conservatives on the entire federal bench.”

“Clearly, if Garland got back on the court, the whole Heller decision, individual right to bear arms, would be put in severe jeopardy,” Macy claimed, “and you would have to imagine it would be gotten rid of as quick as the court could get another case up before them, they’d be looking for the case to bring up.”

Macy also brought up another case that gun groups have been using to attack Garland, in which Garland joined in a ruling that held that the FBI could temporarily store background check information from gun sales for audit purposes. Macy absurdly claimed that this shows that Garland “supports the ability of a president to illegally use executive power to advance liberal causes like taking guns away from honest citizens.”

These, he said, were all reasons to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so that he “keeps that nomination on hold until the president’s gone and we have a new president.”

Phyllis Schlafly: No SCOTUS Nominee 'Until We Have A Republican Who Will Appoint Somebody In The Nature of Scalia'

Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-feminist icon and enthusiastic Donald Trump endorser, characteristically abandoned all pretense of nonpartisanship when discussing the Supreme Court vacancy in a recent interview with “Armed America Radio,” saying that Republicans should hold firm in blocking a nominee until a Republican is in the White House.

“We need the Republicans to stand firm and say, ‘We’ve got a big election coming up and that should change the complexion of the Supreme Court and we don’t want any new nominee on the court until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia,’” Schlafly told host Mark Walters on March 20. (She did not specify whether she was simply hoping that the next president will be a Republican or if she was suggesting that the GOP block all Democratic Supreme Court picks in the future.)

This prompted Walters to ask her about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, which Schlafly said made her “scared to death.”

The solution, she said, was for Republicans to unite around Trump because “your gun rights and all kinds of other rights” are on the line.

“We have a two-party system in this country and if you want a third party I invite you to move to Europe, where they have lots of useless third parties,” she said.

In an op-ed yesterday, Schlafly invoked the late First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign in urging the GOP to obstruct Obama’s Supreme Court nominee:

The U.S. Senate should follow the famous advice of the late First Lady Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to Obama’s nominee.

NH Voters Call on Sen. Ayotte to End Supreme Court Obstruction

Nashua, NH – Outside of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s district office, Granite Staters joined to demonstrate against Sen. Kelly Ayotte for her obstruction aimed at President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Participants called on Sen. Ayotte to give fair consideration – timely hearings and an up-or-down vote – to Judge Garland.

“Sen. Ayotte has a constitutional responsibility to give fair consideration to judicial nominations,” said Lindsay Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way, “It’s time for her to do her job and stop ignoring the majority of Granite Staters who want to see the Supreme Court vacancy filled this year. She should put principle over partisanship instead of trying to hold a Supreme Court seat open for President Trump or President Cruz.”

Most New Hampshire voters, including 60% of independent voters in New Hampshire, support filling the Supreme Court vacancy this year, yet Sen. Ayotte continues to stand firm against giving fair consideration to Judge Garland.

Pictures from today’s events:

   

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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A Baseless Attack Against Garland On ACA Cases

When you have a Supreme Court nominee as well respected across the political and ideological spectrum as Merrick Garland, it’s no wonder that far right groups’ attacks against him make so little sense. Their “he hates the Second Amendment” attack last week was so illogical that it just made them look foolish. A new attack relating to religious liberty and the Affordable Care Act is equally baseless.

As with the Second Amendment example, the new attack is not based at all on any substantive ruling by Judge Merrick – not a written dissent, nor a majority opinion he authored or joined, nor a concurrence he penned. Instead, his critics are reading into his votes on whether certain three-panel decisions should be reconsidered by the entire D.C. Circuit in what is called an en banc review.

The first involved a D.C. Circuit panel decision called Priests For Life v. HHS, which is currently one of the many cases consolidated into Zubik v. Burwell, which will be argued before the Supreme Court later this week. The case concerns the ability of religiously affiliated nonprofits to opt out of the requirement to provide their employees certain contraception health insurance coverage without a co-pay. The law allows an accommodation so the employees can get the coverage without their employers having to contract, arrange, or pay for it. Instead, the employers simply tell the insurer or the federal government of their objection, at which point the insurer must offer the coverage separately to employees who want it. But some religious nonprofits assert that even this accommodation violates their religious liberty. A unanimous three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit (which did not include Garland) upheld the law as not violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hardly an outlier, the same legal conclusion has been reached by the 2nd Circuit, the 3rd Circuit, the 5th Circuit, the 6th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, the 10th Circuit, and the 11th Circuit. Last fall, the 8th Circuit reached the opposite conclusion, creating a circuit split that will be resolved by the Supreme Court.

In any event, Life Site News slams Judge Garland for voting against having the entire D.C. Circuit rehear the Priests for Life case. 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.

There could be any number of reasons not to want to review a panel decision; perhaps you agree with it; perhaps you think the issue is not important enough to merit that unusual step; perhaps you think a different case would be a better vehicle for addressing the legal issues; perhaps you’re concerned about the court’s workload; perhaps you know that numerous other circuits are addressing the exact same question and that  regardless of whether your court reconsiders the panel decision — the issue will be resolved by the Supreme Court, so that an en banc review would be a pointless waste of time and resources.

Indeed, that last scenario is what happened in the second ACA case that Life Site News attacks Judge Garland for. In that case, Halbig v. Burwell, a D.C. Circuit panel struck down the ACA’s subsidies structure in response to a legal attack widely recognized as purely politically motivated and legally weak (to be charitable) effort to destroy the ACA. In September 2014, the full D.C. Circuit voted without noted dissent to rehear the case, with no judge writing separately to explain their reasoning. The parties submitted detailed briefs and replies, in preparation for scheduled oral arguments in December. But then the Supreme Court accepted a case from the 4th Circuit raising the same issue, King v. Burwell, leading the D.C. Circuit to cancel its own planned oral arguments as a waste of time. So we don’t know how Chief Judge Garland would have voted on the merits of the case. (The conservative Roberts Court rejected the challenge in a 6-3 vote.)

Perhaps Chief Judge Garland, seeing how much effort went into an ultimately unnecessary en banc proceeding in the ACA subsidies case, didn’t want to repeat that scenario in the ACA contraception coverage case, knowing that the Supreme Court would likely be the ultimate arbiter of the legal issue.

The point is, we don’t know. We can’t know. Chief Judge Garland’s votes on whether to reconsider panel opinions simply don’t tell us anything about his views on the merits of the case, unless he writes or joins an opinion explaining his reasoning, which he did not do in these cases.

A Baseless Attack Against Garland on ACA Cases

The new attacks are not based on anything Chief Judge Garland has actually written or addressed on the merits.
PFAW

What Would It Look Like If Ted Cruz Put His Pal Mike Lee on the Supreme Court?

Back in December, Kyle reported that Glenn Beck, who believes Ted Cruz is anointed by God to be president, suggested that a President Cruz should nominate Utah Sen. Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. This weekend, while campaigning in Utah, Cruz himself floated the prospect, saying Lee “would look good” on the court.

“Good” is not really the right word. “Terrifying” is more like it.

Lee, who calls Cruz his “best friend at work,” has perhaps the most extreme view of the Constitution of anyone in the Senate. Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.”

Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion. He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

This list helps explain why right-wing law professor Jonathan Adler, a force behind the King v. Burwell challenge to the Affordable Care Act, has also suggested that the next Republican president should put Lee on the court.

For an ardent self-described constitutionalist, Lee has a lot of problems with the Constitution as amended over the years and as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Lee published a book last year called “Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document.” He believes the 16th amendment, allowing the federal government to collect income taxes, should be repealed, leaving it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the extremely limited federal government that would fit his vision of the constitution. He also thinks the 17th Amendment was a mistake and thinks the power to elect U.S. senators should be taken away from voters and returned to state legislatures. He also wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents and wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits. He supports a campaign by some right-wing activists for state legislators to convene an “Article V” convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution.

As a Senate candidate he said he would like to abolish the federal Departments of Energy and Education, dismantle the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and phase out Social Security altogether. As a senator, Lee orchestrated shutting down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare, even though Cruz took most of the blame for it.

Cruz and Lee share a sort of gleeful pride in playing the outsiders who have contempt for “the establishment.” Lee is reportedly the guy who suggested that Cruz run for Senate; he was among those who endorsed Cruz in his long-shot primary for his Senate seat. This month, he became the first of Cruz’s Senate colleagues to endorse his presidential run.

Courting Extremism: GOP Attacks On Garland Range From Pathetic To Bizarre

Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.

In the weeks since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans have relied on falsehoods and fabricated claims in an attempt to justify their refusal to consider any person President Obama nominates to take Scalia’s place on the Supreme Court. It comes as no surprise, then, that as soon as President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland for the seat, conservatives immediately turned to ridiculous and dishonest arguments to oppose his nomination.

Here are the five most ridiculous conservative pro-obstruction arguments of the week:

5) Blockbuster Scandal!

Conservatives think they have finally found a damning piece of opposition research on Garland: He once dared to appear at a book party for a book about Justice Harry Blackmun and, according to one report, “described the release of Blackmun’s papers to be a great gift to the country.”

Why is it scandalous to attend a celebration of a book about a justice who served on the Supreme Court for over two decades? Because Blackmun authored the Roe v. Wade decision, of course!

Garland’s attendance at the book party has rattled Americans United for Life and the Judicial Action Group, which favor the Senate GOP leadership’s Supreme Court blockade.

Here is how the anti-choice outlet LifeNews put it: “When it comes to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, one of his inspirations is the author of Roe v. Wade, the high court case that ushered in an era of 58 million abortions.”

The group Live Action even said that by hailing the release of Blackmun’s papers, Garland “has lavished praised” on Blackmun, “author of the legally indefensible Roe v. Wade.” Live Action’s Calvin Freiburger also stated that Republicans should oppose Garland simply because Obama nominated him, saying that the president “a judicial activist at heart and is wildly committed to abortion-on-demand at any time for any reason as a ‘constitutional right.’”

Just to recap, according to the Right Wing, it is now a scandal that a federal judge praised the release of a Supreme Court justice’s papers, and it is controversial that a president fulfilled his constitutional duties to appoint jurists to the bench.

4) Giving Away The Game

Senate Republicans know they can’t come right out and admit that they oppose Garland’s nomination because he isn’t the kind of right-wing extremist they think they would get from a President Trump or Cruz. And they can’t come out against his impeccable qualifications either.

As such, all they are left with is the historically inaccurate talking point that the Senate has a “tradition” of refusing to confirm Supreme Court nominees in the final year of a president’s term. Since anyone who performs a simple Google search about past confirmation votes can easily debunk the GOP’s claim, it is hard to see how much longer they can trot this one out.

Obama’s nomination of Garland, who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, caused at least some Republicans to throw out the bogus “tradition” argument and simply admit that their Supreme Court blockade is just about politics.

If the “tradition” argument was actually based in fact and Republicans truly believed that March 2016 is too late in the president’s term for him to appoint a Supreme Court justice, then why do they think that November and December of this year would be just fine?

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board similarly floated the idea of a lame-duck confirmation vote “if Mrs. Clinton wins the election” just one month after demanding that Senate Republicans “refuse to consider any nominee this year” and wait for the next president to nominate a new justice.

Former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson also confessed to the political nature of the GOP’s stance, telling one radio host that the Senate should move to confirm Garland only if “Hillary won” because “otherwise we’re going to get somebody who’s really left-wing who’s going to be much, much worse than anything that [Garland] would likely do.”

3) Gun Grabber!

Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly joined gun groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America in criticizing Garland’s nomination, saying this week that Garland “voted” to “keep guns away from private citizens” in Washington, D.C. “That vote will disqualify him among Republicans,” he said, referring to Garland's supposed “advocacy position that guns have to be kept away.”

O’Reilly’s colleague at Fox News, Bret Baier, also alleged that Garland “opposed Justice Scalia’s take on the Second Amendment in the Heller case.”

Except Garland never voted on anything close to that.

O’Reilly and Baier were referring to the Heller case, which challenged a District of Columbia law barring residents from owning handguns. When it reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a three-judge panel found that the ban was unconstitutional. Garland simply voted to have the case, which had national implications, reheard by the full court, which often happens in important cases.

It was not a vote for or against the constitutionality of the district’s gun regulation, but rather simply a vote to have the case heard in front of all the judges on the court. And far from being an outlier, he voted the same way as other judges on the bench including Judge A. Raymond Randolph, whom Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times once called “one of the most outspoken and agenda-driven conservatives on the entire federal bench.”

It seems conservatives like O’Reilly and Baier are either making things up or simply don’t understand how the justice system works.

2) Garland Is ‘A Slow, Stealth, Radical Liberal’

Conservative radio host Michael Savage has his own reasons for opposing Garland.

Savage took issue with commentators who described Garland as a “moderate liberal,” claiming this week that “there’s no such thing as a moderate liberal” because “liberalism itself is a radical philosophy whose aim is to slowly or rapidly erode or destroy the structural pillars of a traditional society.”

“No he’s not a moderate at all,” Savage said. “He is a slow, stealth, radical liberal like the rest of them.”

1) Cover-up!

Leave it to the conspiracy theorists at WorldNetDaily to issue this strange attack on Garland.

WND reporter Jack Cashill urged Republicans to grill Garland on his ties to the supposed “cover-ups” behind the TWA Flight 800 disaster and the Oklahoma City bombing, even demanding that Republicans ask Hillary Clinton to testify at confirmation hearings.

While his argument is rooted in conspiracy theories, at least Cashill is calling for the Judiciary Committee to have a hearing on Garland’s nomination, something many Republicans refuse to do.

Conservatives Make Pathetic Effort To Claim Garland Is 'Hostile' To Gun Rights

As soon as President Obama announced his nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network and the Republican National Committee unveiled embarrassingly thin dossiers to frame Garland — whom conservatives have previously praised — as an unconfirmable liberal activist.

Both organizations decided to focus their criticism on the claim that Garland is “hostile” to gun rights, something that other conservative groups have picked up and run with. The National Rifle Association, in turn, is out with a petition urging the Senate to reject Garland’s nomination, also claiming that he’s “hostile to the Second Amendment.”

The NRA cites three cases that it says show that Garland “supports a handgun ban” and “supports a national gun registry.” Not one shows anything of the sort.

Claim 1: “In 2007, he ruled in favor of reviewing the D.C. Circuit’s decision that invalidated the city’s handgun ban – the very ban Scalia helped overturn at the Supreme Court.”

The facts: A divided panel of three other judges of the D.C. Circuit Court, on which Garland sits, reversed a lower court ruling and found that a Washington, D.C., handgun ban was unconstitutional. The full court then had an opportunity to vote on whether the case should be reheard by all the judges on the entire D.C. Circuit. Garland was one of four members of the court, including a decidedly conservative colleague, Raymond Randolph, who voted to rehear the case. That vote indicates absolutely nothing about what Garland thought about the merits of the case and certainly doesn’t mean that Garland “supports a handgun ban” as the NRA claims. After all, this was before the Supreme Court ruling in Heller and, regardless of ideology, it made perfect sense for a judge to want the full circuit to consider the case.

Claim 2: “In 2004, he ruled against rehearing another pivotal Second Amendment case, thereby casting a vote against the individual right to Keep and Bear Arms.”

The facts: It’s the same story here. The NRA seems to be referring to the 2005 case Seegers v. Gonzales, which had to do with whether the parties suing had standing to challenge D.C.’s handgun law; the substance of the Second Amendment argument was not at issue. This time, Garland voted with the majority of his colleagues to deny a full-court rehearing of the case. Again, that vote gave absolutely no indication of how he felt about the issue of standing (to say nothing of the merits of the Second Amendment case) and definitely was not “a vote against the individual right to Keep and Bear Arms.”

Claim 3: “In 2000, he ruled in favor of the federal government’s plan to keep gun owners’ personal information in an unofficial national registry.”

The facts: In this case, NRA of America v. Reno, the NRA claimed that a regulation requiring information from gun background checks to be temporarily retained violated a law requiring background check records to be destroyed. Garland joined in an opinion finding that the law didn’t prohibit the temporary storage of that data “for audit purposes,” after which it would be destroyed as required by law. From this, the NRA falsely concludes that Garland “supports a national gun registry.”

There is frankly nothing in Garland’s record that indicates his substantive views, if any, on the Second Amendment. Could it possibly be that conservative groups are grasping at straws in an attempt to justify their blanket obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination process?

'Swift Boat' PR Firm Takes Up Supreme Court Fight

The public relations firm that pushed the false “swift boat” smear on John Kerry in 2004 and has since taken up far-right causes from creationism to the Tea Party to recent attacks on Planned Parenthood has now gotten involved in the fight against confirming President Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

A new website, ScotusBrief.org, which appears to be dedicated to pushing the messaging of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), was registered four days after the death of Antonin Scalia by Leif Noren, the founder and chairman of the Virginia-based CRC Public relations. CRC has represented JCN in the past and in 2009 was involved in the effort to stop the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It’s on the CRC-created website that JCN published its embarrassingly thin opposition research dump on Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia.

CRC is most infamous for its role representing Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that in the months before the 2004 election pushed dishonest claims that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had overstated his accomplishments in the Vietnam War. The smear was so nasty that it inspired the creation of the word “swiftboating” to describe false personal smears against a candidate.

Since then, CRC has taken up far-right causes including attacks on health care reform, climate-change denialism, the creationist Discovery Institute and the National Organization for Marriage. CRC is also representing David Daleiden, the activist behind last year’s series of videos smearing Planned Parenthood.

The Judicial Crisis Network — which during the Bush administration was called the Judicial Confirmation Network and was dedicated to pushing through conservative judicial nominees — has been laughably attempting to frame its efforts to stop a Supreme Court confirmation as some sort of high-minded, nonpartisan public service rather than the transparently partisan crusade that it is.

The group’s partnership with CRC, with its long history of vicious partisan smears, exposes that partisan crusade yet again.

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on the President's Supreme Court Nominee

One day after President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, PFAW held a telebriefing for members about the extraordinarily qualified nominee and the GOP’s unprecedented obstruction campaign aimed at bringing the process of filling the vacancy to a halt.

PFAW’s Michael Keegan, Marge Baker, Elliot Mincberg, Drew Courtney, and Brian Tashman discussed the Republican blockade, Garland’s record as a judge, and what’s at stake in the confirmation fight for our constitutional rights and liberties.

“This nominee, when confirmed, will shift the balance” of a Supreme Court that has been one of the “most conservative Courts in decades,” Baker said. PFAW released a report last year, “Judgment Day 2016,” reviewing many of the 5-4 decisions that have had an enormous impact on the daily lives of Americans and highlighting how the composition of the Court is a key issue in 2016 and beyond.

Speakers outlined why it’s critical that Senate Republicans do their jobs and give Judge Garland the fair consideration that he deserves. Tashman noted that the Right’s encouragement of the GOP obstruction is nothing more than an “effort to delegitimize the president and play politics with the Court.”

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

Ben Carson Undermines GOP Claims On Supreme Court Nomination

While Republicans have spent the past several weeks declaring that their vow to obstruct any person President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court is a matter of principle and tradition (never mind that it’s a principle and tradition that they made up on the spot), some have begun changing their tune now that Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to the seat, hinting that they would confirm him in a lame duck session if a Democrat is elected president in November.

Former GOP presidential candidate and Donald Trump endorser Ben Carson was the latest to jump on this bandwagon, telling David Webb on his Sirius show last night that Senate Republicans should simply delay proceedings on Garland’s nomination until after the election.

“I would take a very slow, deliberate process that extended beyond the election in November,” he said, “so that in the chance that Hillary won, they’d be ready to confirm him, because otherwise we’re going to get somebody who’s really left-wing who’s going to be much, much worse than anything that he would likely do. By the same token, by taking it very, very slowly, beyond the election, you know, if the Republican wins, then you can say, ‘Okay, we took it that far, now let’s see who the president really wants to appoint.’”

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