Supreme Court

No, Biden Didn't Call For Rejecting All Supreme Court Nominees In Election Years

Within hours of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this month, conservatives retroactively invented a bogus “tradition” that Supreme Court justices are never confirmed in presidential election years. That claim is demonstrably false, but conservatives are sticking with it in an attempt to justify their efforts to keep President Obama from naming the next Supreme Court justice.

Today, the pro-obstruction crowd thought it got a boost when a short clip of now-Vice President Joe Biden was unearthed from the depths of the C-SPAN archives. In the clip of the 1992 floor speech, Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during what turned out to be the last year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, urges the president to, in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy, “not name a nominee until after the November election is completed.”

Hypocrisy!

Well, not quite.

As ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky and Biden himself have pointed out, when taken in context, that wasn't Biden's point. The then-senator made the remarks in the context of a long speech bemoaning the increased politicization of the confirmation process and, in Biden’s words, urging the White House and the Senate to “work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended.”

Secondly, even if you were to claim that Biden were offering some new rule for blocking Supreme Court nominations, that rule wouldn't cover the current situation.

Look at the timestamp on the video. Biden was speaking on June 25, 1992 about filling a vacancy if a justice “resigns tomorrow or within the next several weeks resigns at the end of the summer.” By June 25, the presidential primaries were over and Bill Clinton was the presumptive Democratic nominee. That’s a very different point in an election year than we are in today, when the vacancy opened so very early on in the presidential nominating contests and with the risk of a Supreme Court seat remaining open for more than a year, severely disrupting two consecutive terms.

If you go back to read the transcript of Biden’s remarks, he repeatedly states that he is concerned about vacancies that occur “in the summer or fall of a presidential election year” — not vacancies that occur as early in the year as Justice Scalia’s did. The last four Supreme Court confirmations took an average of 75 days from nomination to confirmation, meaning that if President Obama nominates anyone in the next month, they could be confirmed well before the period that Biden was supposedly arguing should be off-limits for Supreme Court nominations.

There is still no “tradition” of shutting down judicial nominations for the entire last year of a presidency or of leaving the Supreme Court short-handed for an entire year.

And, as Volsky notes, while Biden didn’t face a Supreme Court vacancy in 1992, his Judiciary Committee did continue approving Circuit Court nominees well through the summer and fall of the election year, a stark contrast to current Republican threats to shut down the judicial nominations process entirely this year:

 

 

PFAW

No, Biden Didn't Call For Rejecting All Supreme Court Nominees In Election Years

Within hours of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this month, conservatives retroactively invented a bogus “tradition” that Supreme Court justices are never confirmed in presidential election years. That claim is demonstrably false, but conservatives are sticking with it in an attempt to justify their efforts to keep President Obama from naming the next Supreme Court justice.

Today, the pro-obstruction crowd thought it got a boost when a short clip of now-Vice President Joe Biden was unearthed from the depths of the C-SPAN archives. In the clip of the 1992 floor speech, Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during what turned out to be the last year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, urges the president to, in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy, “not name a nominee until after the November election is completed.”

Hypocrisy!

Well, not quite.

As ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky and Biden himself have pointed out, when taken in context, that wasn't Biden's point. The then-senator made the remarks in the context of a long speech bemoaning the increased politicization of the confirmation process and, in Biden’s words, urging the White House and the Senate to “work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended.”

Secondly, even if you were to claim that Biden was offering some new rule for blocking Supreme Court nominations, that rule wouldn't cover the current situation.

Look at the timestamp on the video. Biden was speaking on June 25, 1992 about filling a vacancy if a justice “resigns tomorrow or within the next several weeks resigns at the end of the summer.” By June 25, the presidential primaries were over and Bill Clinton was the presumptive Democratic nominee. That’s a very different point in an election year than we are in today, when the vacancy opened so very early on in the presidential nominating contests and with the risk of a Supreme Court seat remaining open for more than a year, severely disrupting two consecutive terms.

If you go back to read the transcript of Biden’s remarks, he repeatedly states that he is concerned about vacancies that occur “in the summer or fall of a presidential election year” — not vacancies that occur as early in the year as Justice Scalia’s did. The last four Supreme Court confirmations took an average of 75 days from nomination to confirmation, meaning that if President Obama nominates anyone in the next month, they could be confirmed well before the period that Biden was supposedly arguing should be off-limits for Supreme Court nominations.

There is still no “tradition” of shutting down judicial nominations for the entire last year of a presidency or of leaving the Supreme Court short-handed for an entire year.

And, as Volsky notes, while Biden didn’t face a Supreme Court vacancy in 1992, his Judiciary Committee did continue approving Circuit Court nominees well through the summer and fall of the election year, a stark contrast to current Republican threats to shut down the judicial nominations process entirely this year:

 

 

New Poll Shows Obstructionist Stance on Supreme Court Vacancy is Hurting Toomey and Portman With Voters

Note to senators in tough reelection battles: putting your Washington DC party bosses over the Constitution by standing in the way of filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court is not only the wrong thing to do for our country, it’s also making voters less likely to support you.

New Public Policy Polling surveys released today show that large majorities of voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Senators Pat Toomey and Rob Portman are running for reelection, want the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death to be filled this year. According to the polling memo:

  • Strong majorities of voters – 58/35 in Ohio and 57/40 in Pennsylvania – think that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year. What’s particularly noteworthy about those numbers – and concerning for Portman and Toomey – is how emphatic the support for approving a replacement is among independent voters. In Ohio they think a new Justice should be named this year 70/24 and in Pennsylvania it’s 60/37.
  • …Voters are particularly angry about Senators taking the stance that they’re not going to approve anyone before even knowing who President Obama decides to put forward. By a 76/20 spread in Pennsylvania and a 74/18 one in Ohio, voters think the Senate should wait to see who is nominated to the Court before deciding whether or not to confirm that person. Toomey and Portman are out of line even with their own party base on that one – Republicans in Pennsylvania think 67/27 and in Ohio think 63/32 that the Senate should at least give President Obama’s choice a chance before deciding whether or not to confirm them. [emphasis added]

Perhaps most notable for the senators, more than half of voters (52 percent in both states) say they would be less likely to vote for Toomey or Portman if they “refused to confirm a replacement for Justice Scalia this year no matter who it was.” Among independents, the numbers were even higher.

Senators Toomey and Portman would be wise to take heed of their constituents, and of the Constitution, and stop refusing to even consider any Supreme Court nominee, regardless of his or her credentials. Any nominee must be treated fairly and honestly. The Supreme Court is far too important to be held hostage to the overtly political obstruction of GOP senators.

PFAW

Ronald Reagan, 1988: 'Move Quickly' To 'Make Sure There's A Full Nine-Member Supreme Court'

In their effort to prevent President Obama from naming the next Supreme Court justice, Senate Republicans have seized upon a bogus talking point that the Senate has a long-held, bipartisan tradition of refusing confirmation votes to the Supreme Court during an election year.

This claim is demonstrably false, as illustrated by a cursory glance at Senate history and by some of the past statements and even votes of some of the very same senators.

Things got so bad that Ted Cruz, who in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was one of the first to call on the GOP to block consideration of any nominee from President Obama, falsely claimed in a presidential debate that Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by the Senate in 1987, when in fact he was confirmed in 1988, the final year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

The same politicians who try to out-position one another as a modern-day versions of Reagan must find it pretty inconvenient that Reagan, in his last year in office, urged the Senate to “move quickly and decisively” to “make sure there’s a full, nine-member Supreme Court to interpret the law and to protect the rights of all Americans.”

Howard Mortman of C-SPAN flagged the remarks Reagan made in his 1988 State of the Union address.

As Paul explained last week, filling a Supreme Court vacancy in the last year of a presidency is indeed rare — because it is rare for a justice to die in office, and even rarer for a justice to die in a presidential election year.

But many Republicans, it seems, have found it easier to manufacture phony “traditions” than to admit they want to leave the court shorthanded for a year in the hopes of having a president they like better in the future.

Trump Confidant Roger Stone Wonders If Scalia Was Assassinated

Last week, radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones interviewed Roger Stone, the longtime adviser and confidant of Donald Trump, about the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Stone, who has served as a go-between for Jones and Trump, was happy to engage in speculation surrounding the justice’s death, just as the GOP frontrunner himself has.

When Jones, who has insisted that Scalia was assassinated and warned that Trump may be next, brought up the “red flags” surrounding the justice’s death, Stone mentioned the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“I don’t think any of us are claiming foul play, we’d like to rule out foul play, but common sense dictates that there’d be some investigation and some autopsy to make sure this wasn’t another coup d’état,” he said. “We’ve had coups d’état in this country. We had one on November 22nd, 1963, we had another one at the time of Watergate, this could very well be another coup d’état.”

Stone also took time to explain that the New York Daily News has been critical of Trump because its owner, Mort Zuckerman, is “a very short guy, he has no luck with women and he’s very, very jealous of Donald Trump, who is tall, handsome and has the most beautiful wife on the planet.”

Later, Jones hailed Trump as “a hero” who is “under amazing danger” due to a grand plot involving the Vatican, Washington and Wall Street.

“I am so glad I back Trump,” he said. “He’s the real deal. There’s no way he’s an establishment scammer. I can look at their body language, they are crapping their pants, Mr. Stone, and for a lack of a better term, they are scared to death like vampires being hauled out at high noon. I am really concerned about Donald Trump right now. I’m not fear-mongering. I think he’s the most under-threat man on earth right now.”

Right-Wing Activists Suggest Obama Killed Scalia To Impose Martial Law

Two right-wing pundits who have suggested that the White House was behind the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC and InfoWars broadcaster Alex Jones, got together last week to discuss their theories about Scalia’s passing, both insisting that they were just asking the question if President Obama killed the conservative jurist.

Gheen rejoiced that more Americans are waking up to the fact that the U.S. “is being destabilized and overthrown by a socialist overthrow of [the] country that’s behind illegal immigration and behind the Black Lives Matter movement,” finding it suspicious that “Scalia was the number-one or one of the number-one top stumbling blocks to that agenda when he died.”

“We are under martial law,” Gheen declared.

Jones said that Scalia was “the one guy standing against” Obama and “was about to say no and they said, ‘Oh really?’”

Michael Savage: 'It's The End Of The World' If Obama Appoints A New Justice To The Supreme Court

On Wednesday, conservative talk radio personality Michael Savage continued to hash out his conspiracy theory that President Obama was behind Justice Antonin Scalia’s death at a Texas ranch.

He told “Savage Nation” listeners that Scalia’s “suspicious” death was the single worst thing to ever happen to the world because if Obama “gets control of that Supreme Court you may as well pack your bags and move. Where? There’s nowhere to move. It’s the end of the world. You heard me, it’s the end of the world. Not the end of America, the end of the world.”

“Nothing worse could’ve happened,” Savage said, claiming that the U.S. will go “right into the toilet bowl” if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gains more clout on the court.

He then said the FBI would never investigate Scalia’s passing because it’s “in the back pocket of Barry Obama’s Blackberry union.”

On SCOTUS Obstruction, Republicans Are Citing A 'Precedent' That Doesn't Exist

The following is an excerpt from a post on the People For blog on the Republican attempt to block any nominee President Obama chooses to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia:

Just as the Constitution and principle are not on the GOP’s side, neither are the facts. For instance, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has said that “it's been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.” His constituents could be forgiven for inferring that the situation we now face is common, and that nomination and confirmation of Scalia’s replacement this year would go against historical norms.

However, the current situation is anything but common. The fortunate reality is that it is extremely rare for a Supreme Court justice to die in office. In fact, since 1950, this is only the fourth time a sitting justice has passed away, and this is the only time it has happened in a presidential election year:

1. Chief Justice Fred Vinson – died in 1953

2. Justice Robert Jackson – died in 1954

3. Chief Justice William Rehnquist – died in 2005

4. Justice Antonin Scalia – died in 2016

Thankfully, this is an extremely unusual situation. Republicans cannot cite precedent for an incumbent president under these circumstances to abstain from carrying out his constitutional duties and force Americans to wait a year or more for the next president to fill a sudden, unexpected vacancy on the nation’s highest court, simply because it was a presidential election year when a justice died.

Justices who retire often time their announcements in time for a replacement to be nominated and confirmed by the beginning of the next Supreme Court term. That is why most of the current justices were able to take their seats in time for the traditional First Monday in October, ensuring a full complement of nine justices. As an alternative way to protect the institution, Sandra Day O’Connor agreed to remain on the Court until her replacement could be confirmed. So even though Justice Alito was confirmed in January 2006, the middle of the term, the nation’s highest court was not forced to operate short-staffed. In ways such as these, retiring justices have sought to protect the integrity of the Court by ensuring it be able to operate at full capacity.

Unfortunately, despite Justice Scalia’s devotion to the Court he served on for three decades, he did not have the opportunity to protect it from having to operate short-staffed. And yet many Republicans are vowing to keep the Court hobbled for as long as possible.

The Judicial Crisis Network's Incredibly Dishonest Pro-Obstruction Ad

The messaging that conservatives seem to have settled on regarding the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is that somehow Americans won’t have a say in who the next justice is unless the confirmation of any nominee is stalled until after the next president takes office. (No matter that the current president was, in fact, elected by the American people for this very job.)

The first TV ad out of the gates in the Supreme Court battle comes from the Judicial Crisis Network, which uses this messaging in an effort to pressure Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to stand strong on denying a hearing to any Obama nominee for the seat.

The screen shows softly lit stock footage of diverse Americans as a voiceover 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.

This is what Vice President Biden might call “a bunch of malarkey.”

At the same time as her group was preparing this ad about the supposed high American ideals of not letting the president fulfill his constitutional obligation to appoint Supreme Court justices, the Judicial Crisis Network’s top attorney, Carrie Severino, was telling a conservative news network something very different, saying that failure to block an Obama nominee would be “political malpractice” on the part of Republicans.

In a statement shortly after Scalia’s passing, Severino made it clear that this stand was specifically about conservatives’ animosity toward Obama, whom, she said, is “the last person” who should be appointing the justice’s successor.

And, of course, we always have to note that during the George W. Bush administration the Judicial Crisis Network was called the Judicial Confirmation Network and that its stated mission was to ensure that “the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote." As far as we know, the Judicial Confirmation Network didn’t oppose any of the 28 federal judges who were confirmed during Bush’s final year in office.

But it definitely “isn’t about Republicans and Democrats”!

Bryan Fischer Says 'God Took Antonin Scalia Home' To Make SCOTUS The Central Issue In The Election

On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer echoed Glenn Beck as he asserted that God "took home" the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia last weekend in order to highlight the importance of the Supreme Court in the upcoming presidential election.

"I believe God took Antonin Scalia home," Fischer said. "Antonin Scalia shows up and God says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant, you lived out every one of the days that I had written for you in my book, welcome home.' And the timing of this, I believe, God was arranging so that the issue in this election would be focused on the Supreme Court, so that the Supreme Court replacement would be the defining issue of this campaign. Because God knows that we're running out of chances, this is God in His grace calling Antonin Scalia home to his reward in order to make this the defining issue of the 2016 campaign."

'All Is Lost': Michael Savage Has Meltdown Suggesting Obama Killed Scalia

On Tuesday’s edition of “The Savage Nation,” Michael Savage expounded on his suspicion that President Obama was behind the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a theory he shared with GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Savage declared that if the scandal is “swept under the rug and Hussein is allowed to railroad his nominee down the throats of the American people without opposition, then all is lost, all is lost.”

He added: “Antonin Scalia was the single largest obstacle to Obama’s end-of-term agenda and that’s all you have to know.”

Referring to the Supreme Court’s move to block new rules on greenhouse gas emissions, Savage claimed that Scalia may have been wacked because he “just killed a trillion-dollar-a-year business for the gangster left in the green business, they’re making more money on green rackets than they ever made in importing drugs, and you wonder why he was dead six days later?”

While chatting with Joe Biggs of the conspiracy-theory clearinghouse InfoWars, Savage insisted that he could have his food poisoned for investigating the justice’s death.

“I’m definitely throwing the pillows off the bed,” Biggs said, a reference to the right-wing conspiracy theory that a pillow found by the late justice’s head was involved in his death.

Savage also linked Scalia’s death to the civil war in Syria. “Putin should get a Nobel Prize for taking ISIS on and putting them on run,” he said, ignoring the fact that Russia is actually bombing the terrorist group’s rivals while largely ignoring ISIS.

He then accused Obama of arming and funding ISIS, unlike Putin, whom Savage said “stepped in as the hero of the world.” “Never forget that Hussein may not be on the side that you think he’s on,” Savage continued. “Never ever forget that his loyalties are questionable.”

After suggesting that the president is a secret Muslim who shows “solidarity with the other side,” he said that "if they can whack a Supreme Court justice and get away with it, tell me what else they can do?”

Five Conservatives Who Think Obama Murdered Scalia

It was inevitable that some conservative activists would push conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, warning that Scalia was killed on the orders of President Obama as part of his nefarious plan to introduce socialism and perform demonic pagan rituals.

5) Rick Wiles

End Times radio host Rick Wiles knows the real reason Obama tried to murder Scalia. And as you have probably already guessed, it was part of a numerology-inspired pagan ritual to use Scalia as a human sacrifice to Satan:

4) Ted Nugent

NRA board member Ted Nugent posted on his Facebook page a “report” from a website called InvestmentWatch alleging that Scalia was murdered to help Obama push through his policies on climate change.

 

Who can possibly trust our evil rotten runaway criminal government at this heartbreaking point in time?http://investmentwatchblog.com/the-motive-behind-the-murder-of-justice-scalia/

Posted by Ted Nugent on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

3) Alex Jones

Immediately after news broke of Scalia’s death, Alex Jones of InfoWars insisted that the justice was killed as part of an Obama-led conspiracy. The following day, Jones and his news crew agreed that Obama decided to kill Scalia in order to push through gun reform and socialism, while sparking “the final war” over the future of America.

2) William Gheen

The head of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), William Gheen, thinks that Obama may have murdered Scalia in order to “hand control of the highest court in our land to liberal socialists for the first time in American history” and change the outcome of an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the president’s executive actions on immigration.

Judge Scalia's death at the average lifespan for modern Americans, 79 years, comes just in time for the final months of the despised Obama administration. The new math on the Supreme Court without Scalia will allow them to immediately rule in favor of Obama's unconstitutional amnesty for illegals orders! How convenient for the liberals that the death of one man would create such an incredible power to radically transform America in the next few months regardless of if Congress blocks Obama from replacing Scalia! There are so many powerful people with motive to want Scalia dead and now he is dead from 'natural causes' sans any autopsy or toxicology tests to back that up.

1) Michael Savage

Conservative talk show host Michael Savage has brought his suspicions about Scalia’s death all the way to the GOP presidential frontrunner: Donald Trump.

Trump, naturally, said he found the pillow placement on Scalia’s bed "pretty unusual," while Savage called for a Warren Commission-style investigation into his death.

Cruz: 'Disastrous' Marriage Equality Ruling Led To 'Persecution' That's 'Unprecedented'

In an interview yesterday with conservative Christian broadcaster Janet Mefferd, Sen. Ted Cruz once again touted his support from anti-gay leaders including the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and the National Organization for Marriage, saying that anti-gay conservatives support him because he knows that the Supreme Court’s “disastrous” and “fundamentally illegitimate” marriage equality decision has led to “unprecedented” persecution.

Cruz told Mefferd that “we are seeing an assault on religious liberty from Washington that is unprecedented,” citing a number of his favorite cases of people supposedly being persecuted by running afoul of state or local nondiscrimination policies, almost none of which have stemmed from the federal government.

Claiming that “these threats are growing and growing,” Cruz said that “much of this persecution is the fruit of the Supreme Court’s disastrous gay marriage ruling last year” — never mind that every single one of the incidents he referenced happened before the ruling and were in no way connected to it.

Cruz declared that it was “very sad” that some of his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination called the Obergefell ruling “settled law,” which is, he said, why anti-gay leaders have flocked to endorse him.

“I believe that decision was fundamentally illegitimate, it was lawless, it was unconstitutional and it will not stand,” he said. “And I would note, that is precisely why Dr. James Dobson has endorsed me in this campaign, it is why Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has endorsed me in this campaign, it’s why the National Organization on Marriage [sic] has endorsed me on this campaign and has said it cannot support Donald Trump or Marco Rubio because if we’re not willing to defend marriage, we are giving up the foundational building blocks of the family, we’re giving up the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.”

Martin Sheen Calls Out Ron Johnson For Putting Partisanship Ahead of the Constitution

In a robocall released today by People For the American Way, Wisconsinites are hearing from Martin Sheen about Senator Ron Johnson’s obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees. The recording, which is being delivered to activists in Wisconsin, asks voters to contact Senator Johnson and demand that he fulfill his constitutional duty to give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

“There’s no question that Senator Johnson is putting partisanship above the Constitution,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “The Supreme Court shouldn’t be held hostage to the same partisan gridlock that’s brought Congress to a halt. Ron Johnson should stop playing politics with the law and make clear that he’ll push for the Senate to give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. We’re thrilled that Martin Sheen is willing to lend his voice to this campaign, and we’re looking forward to working with our activists to hold GOP senators accountable for their obstruction.”

You can listen to the call here:

A transcript of the recording reads:

Hi, I’m Martin Sheen, calling on behalf of People For the American Way.

Our Constitution is very clear about what happens when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court. It says the President shall nominate a new judge, and that the Senate will give that nominee fair consideration.

As you’ve heard, Republicans are playing politics with our Constitution and with the Supreme Court. Senator Ron Johnson has said he doesn’t think that Congress should even give a fair hearing to anyone nominated by President Obama.

That’s irresponsible, and it puts partisanship above the law.

Call Senator Johnson at (202) 224-5323, and tell him you expect him to put his Constitutional duties first—and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee.

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.

###
 

Heritage Demands SCOTUS Blockade As Part of Scorched-Earth Obstructionism

As the New York Times explained earlier this week, the Senate GOP’s promises to block anyone who President Obama nominates to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court amounts to a ratcheting up of a campaign of obstruction on nominees that has lasted throughout Obama’s time in office.

This is in part thanks to the lobbying of conservative groups who, even before Scalia’s death, were urging Senate Republicans to block nearly every Obama nominee in his final year in office.

A particularly influential force behind this effort has been the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that has in recent years become a bludgeoning arm for the Tea Party as it pressures GOP lawmakers away from allowing the government to function in any sort of bipartisan manner.

Heritage, under the leadership of former Sen. Jim DeMint, and its more explicitly political arm Heritage Action, headed up by Michael Needham, have worked to pressure the GOP to be an immovable agent of obstruction in a divided government. One House Republican accused Heritage Action last year of insisting on “an unachievable standard” of conservativism that actually “hurts” the party’s goals by preventing reasonable action and compromise.

Heritage Action’s version of conservativism is so far out of the mainstream that even Senate Republicans score an average of just 60 percent on its legislative scorecard. The two senators who have perfect scores from group are Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been boasting of his bridge-burning obstructionism as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. (Sen. Marco Rubio, a supposedly mainstream rival to Cruz, ranks an impressive fourth in Heritage’s ranking of senators.)

Heritage Action’s single-minded focus on attacking the Affordable Care Act infamously helped lead to the 2013 government shutdown. One fellow ACA opponent slammed Heritage and Cruz for the ordeal, writing that the “entire affair was bungled by a few narcissistic conservative groups and senators” and ended up actually hurting the cause they were claiming to support.

Heritage and Heritage Action have applied the same scorched-earth tactics to Obama judicial nominations, urging the GOP to shut down all executive branch and judicial confirmations even before the death of Scalia.

Politico reported in January that in advance of a GOP retreat in Baltimore, Heritage Action circulated a document among lawmakers declaring, “Given the Obama administration’s disregard for Congress’s role in our constitutional system of government, the Senate should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees unless those nominees are directly related to our national security.” This echoed previous calls from Heritage’s favorite senators, Lee and Cruz, to completely shut down the judicial confirmation process.

Later that month, Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios agreed that Republicans should oppose all future Obama judicial nominees because, in von Spakovsky’s words, they would all share Obama’s “radical left-wing views.”

On January 26, Heritage Action announced that it would “continue to oppose all judicial nominees and reserve the right to key vote against any and all judicial nominees retroactively,” meaning that it would count support for any Obama judicial nominee against members of Congress in its scorecards — even, apparently, in votes that had already taken place. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid specifically called out Heritage Action for pressuring GOP senators against action on judicial nominees.

Unsurprisingly, Heritage Action and the Heritage Foundation are now pressuring GOP senators to hold Justice Scalia’s seat open until the next president takes office. Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, who, as a Republican senator, built a reputation as a “warrior for purity” within the party, wrote on Tuesday that the Senate “can and should withhold its consent” from any Obama nominee.

In another interview with Rios on Monday, von Spakovsky offered a barely veiled threat to Republican senators contemplating considering an Obama nominee.

“I think they understand that if they were to confirm a liberal Obama nominee this year, it would be an absolute election disaster,” he said. “I mean, I’ve already heard from folks in the conservative community saying that if any Republican senator works to confirm an Obama nominee, they’re going to be a massive target of people trying to get them out of office because they’ll be so upset about that.”

Now that a Supreme Court seat is at stake, the conservative movement is converging on this line of thinking, inventing bogus new “traditions” in an attempt to justify keeping a Supreme Court seat open for more than a year.

There are plenty of conservative groups that are promising an all-out campaign to keep an Obama Supreme Court nominee off the bench — the Times says that the American Center for Law and Justice, the right-wing legal group founded by Pat Robertson, started opposition research on potential nominees “moments” after Scalia’s death was announced. But Heritage’s commitment to keeping any Obama nominees off the federal bench speaks to the real motivations behind the effort to stop any Supreme Court nominee: turning the Congress into a force of obstruction, not of governing.

Donald Trump: 'Trust Me' To Overturn The 'Shocking' Gay Marriage Decision

In an interview with Pat Robertson’s television network yesterday, Donald Trump insisted that anti-gay conservatives can rest assured knowing that he is committed to overturning the Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down state bans on same-sex marriage.

When the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody asked the GOP presidential frontrunner what he thought of the Log Cabin Republicans calling him “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency,” Trump said he hadn’t heard the remarks and criticized the “shocking” and “massive” Obergefell ruling.

Trump also vowed to defund Planned Parenthood unless the group stops performing abortions.

He then told Brody that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, hoping that the ruling gets “unpassed.”

GOP vs. the Integrity of the American Judicial System

Intentionally crippling the Supreme Court for two consecutive terms would be the height of irresponsibility.
PFAW Foundation

Five Bogus Right-Wing Excuses For Obstructing Obama's SCOTUS Nominee

It didn’t take long for Republicans to admit that their purportedly principled vow to block anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia is all about politics.

Just minutes after the news broke of Scalia’s death, many Republican politicians and conservative activists said that the Senate should refuse to hold any hearings or votes on whomever Obama nominates to replace him because it is an election year.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson have both admitted that if they or another Republican were in the White House, they would have no problem with filling the vacancy. Different rules, it seems, apply to President Obama.

This admission undermines the GOP’s entire argument that they are simply abiding by a nonpartisan tradition of refusing judicial confirmations in election years, an assertion also contradicted by past statements from Senate Republicans such as Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who said in 2008 that “the reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.”

Before the president has even hinted at his choice to replace Scalia on the court, Republicans have been busy concocting bogus “traditions” and other excuses for obstruction — all in an effort to hide the partisan motivations behind keeping Scalia’s seat open.

5) It’s A Tradition!

Several conservatives have been pushing the easily debunked claim that the Senate never confirms a nominee to the Supreme Court during an election year.

Marco Rubio said on Meet the Press that “it’s not just for the Supreme Court, even for appellate courts, both parties have followed this precedent. There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating, or you stop the advice and consent process.”

Rubio’s claim was demonstrably false, but he wasn’t alone in making it.

During Saturday’s GOP presidential debate, moderator John Dickerson called out Ted Cruz for saying that “we have 80 years of precedent for not confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year,” noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy was in fact confirmed in 1988, Ronald Reagan’s final year in office. Cruz responded that “Kennedy was confirmed in ’87,” which is simply untrue. (The audience booed Dickerson for saying he “wanted to get the facts straight for the audience.”)

Cruz’s father, Rafael, took it one step further, telling Pat Robertson that “if the Democrats want to appoint somebody, let them win the election,” seeming to forget that President Obama was elected for a full term in 2012 and that the drafters of the Constitution didn’t want Supreme Court appointments put up to a popular vote.

4) Chuck Schumer Said…

Conservative activists have seized on remarks that Sen. Chuck Schumer made in 2007, which they claim prove that the New York Democrat favored blocking any Supreme Court justice nominated by George W. Bush in case of a vacancy in his last year in office.

However, this line of attack conveniently ignores a key part of Schumer’s speech, where he said that Democrats would only oppose a far-right judicial nominee, explaining that “they must prove by actions not words that they are in the mainstream rather than we have to prove that they are not.”

Josh Marshall of TPM notes that conservatives are misreporting the content of Schumer’s speech:

Schumer quite explicitly never said that the Bush shouldn’t get any more nominations. He also didn’t say that any nominee should be rejected. He said they should insist on proof based on judicial history, rather than just promises that they were mainstream conservatives rather than conservative activists, which both have proven to be. But again, set all this aside. He clearly spoke of holding hearings and being willing to confirm Bush nominees if they met reasonable criteria.

3) What About Robert Bork?

In defense of their stance that Republicans should refuse to consider any Obama Supreme Court nominee, some conservatives have cited the 1987 fight over Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which they offer as proof that Democrats have done the same thing in the past.

This is an odd case to bring up, seeing that Bork did in fact receive a fair hearing and a vote on the Senate floor, two things many Republicans today say should not be given to a future Obama pick.

Bork was voted down by a bipartisan majority of senators due to his extremist views, particularly his hostility to civil rights laws, which is a completely different matter than flatly refusing to hold committee hearings or a vote on a nominee.

2) Obama Is Packing The Court!

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that, ironically, was previously named the Judicial Confirmation Network, told the Washington Post on Monday that “if the president tries to pack the court, as it is apparent he may, then JCN will be leading the charge to delay a Senate vote until the American people decide the next president.”

“Obama doesn’t give a crap about the Constitution…he sees an opportunity to pack the court,” conservative radio host Mark Levin said. “Obama wants to pack the court. That’s what he wants to do on the way out the door and he must be prevented.”

Simply fulfilling his constitutional duties to fill a vacancy in the court following a jurist’s death is not an attempt to “pack” the court. Court packing is when an official tries to expand the current size of the court or create new courts in order to appoint new judges without waiting for vacancies.

1) Obama Has A ‘Conflict Of Interest’

Sen. Rand Paul, who styles himself as a constitutional scholar, said he is uncomfortable with President Obama appointing anyone to the bench because the Supreme Court is considering cases involving Obama’s executive orders on issues like immigration and environmental regulation.

Therefore, Paul concludes, Obama “has a conflict of interest here in appointing somebody” to the court.

The Kentucky Republican’s logic that a president shouldn’t be allowed to make judicial nominations because they may have to rule on actions of the executive branch is absurd on its face. The Constitution provides the president the power to do just that and, if Paul’s logic were to be applied, no president would be able to make any nominations at any time in office.

According to this argument, senators would similarly have a “conflict of interest” in voting to confirm Supreme Court justices since a future justice would likely decide on the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress.

Paul’s bizarre assertion that presidents shouldn’t be allowed to appoint justices due to a possible “conflict of interest” merely speaks to how desperate the GOP has become in trying to come up with dubious arguments that will make their proposed blockade seem like a principled stance, rather than what it really is: a brazenly partisan endeavor that will allow them to shirk their constitutional responsibilities.

Surprise! Tony Perkins Lies About Obama's Response To Scalia's Death

On Saturday, about an hour after officials confirmed the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would try to block the confirmation of any person President Obama nominated to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. One White House aide told Politico that although the administration wasn’t surprised by McConnell’s commitment to obstruction, the speed with which he vowed a fight after Scalia’s death was a “real shocker.”

Some of McConnell’s fellow senators and conservative pressure groups — including the Family Research Council — quickly echoed his call to obstruction.

Later on Saturday evening, President Obama delivered short remarks commemorating Scalia and responding directly to McConnell’s threat by saying that he planned to nominate a new Supreme Court justice in “due time” and called on the Senate “to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”

But in the world of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, what really happened was that President Obama politicized the justice’s death, forcing McConnell and his fellow senators to “fire back.”

In an email to supporters yesterday, Perkins accused Obama of violating a nonexistent “80-year tradition of leaving an election-year vacancy to the next president,” prompting noble GOP senators to contradict him:

There are dozens of high-profile cases pending before the Court -- including the key conservative battles over the Texas abortion law and the conscience rights of Little Sisters of the Poor. While the Court copes with Scalia's absence, the White House seems intent on nominating his replacement, despite the 80-year tradition of leaving an election-year vacancy to the next president. Invoking the Constitution he has selective use for, President Obama told reporters it was his "duty" to submit a name to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. Of course, the greatest insult to Justice Scalia's memory would be to appoint a replacement in the mold of Obama, who's spent seven years trampling on the Constitution on the way to his own personal policy goals.

Almost immediately, Senate leaders fired back, insisting that voters were less than nine months away from selecting a new president -- and, following eight decades of tradition, Scalia's replacement should be left to that person. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others in insisting there would be no confirmation "The fact of the matter is that it's been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year," Mr. Grassley said. "Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice."

Schlafly: GOP Must Block All Obama Judicial Nominees, Strip Courts Of Funding And Power

Right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly wrote today that Justice Antonin Scalia’s death is “a terrible loss for our Nation” and “a reason for Republicans to rethink their approach to the judicial branch of our government.”  The Eagle Forum founder agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to block any nominee President Obama puts forward to fill the Scalia vacancy, but she wants much more — essentially a declaration of war on the federal judiciary by a conservative Congress.

Of course Senate Republicans should block President Obama from filling this Supreme Court vacancy in an election year, and they have 80 years of precedent on their side. But Republicans should go further and block nominations for all the other vacancies in the federal judiciary, too.

But even with that call for a total blockade of the federal courts, Schafly is just warming up. She wants Congress to cut funding for the courts, cut funding for the enforcement of what she believes are “bad” court decisions, and strip the courts of their jurisdiction over immigration, abortion, and marriage:

It’s fine for the Republican presidential candidates to point out that a vacancy on the Supreme Court is part of the upcoming election, and to promise to fill Justice Scalia’s immense shoes with someone similar. But even if a Republican wins the upcoming presidential election, even if he picks another Justice Scalia, and even if he is confirmed by the Senate, the federal judiciary will still be stuffed with hundreds of activist judges appointed by Obama, Clinton, and even Jimmy Carter.

The Founders gave Congress everything necessary to take power away from this runaway federal judiciary. Congress can deprive the federal courts of power over immigration, abortion and marriage, and can completely defund enforcement of bad federal court decisions that are already on the books.

Congress spent months trying unsuccessfully to defund Planned Parenthood, a laudable goal, but Congress can more effectively defund enforcement of the pro-abortion and pro-homosexual marriage decisions by the judiciary without sparking a phony “war on women” debate.

Congress should also defund use of taxpayer money by the Department of Justice to push the liberal agenda in the liberal courts. Congress should cut back on the funding for the courts themselves, too, and eliminate rather than fill some of the vacancies.

While stopping short of an actual endorsement, Schlafly recently called Donald Trump “the only hope” that grassroots activists have, while many of her Eagle Forum colleagues have endorsed Ted Cruz. But Schlafly is apparently not satisfied with any of the presidential candidates:

While some presidential candidates promise to work with Congress, none of them promise to rein in the Supreme Court in the absence of Justice Scalia. None of them promise to stand up against an unconstitutional order by an activist court by refusing to enforce it, as the next president could do with respect to activist Supreme Court rulings on immigration, abortion, and marriage.

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