Sunday, February 14, 2016


By now you know that Republicans have proclaimed their absolute unwillingness to confirm an Obama nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. But did you notice how quickly Republicans settled on obstructionism?
It took only a few minutes after news broke of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death on Saturday for conservatives to demand that Senate Republicans block any replacement nominated by President Barack Obama....

Mere minutes after the Scalia news broke, Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who sits on the Judiciary Committee -- through which any Supreme Court nominee must go -- placed the chances of a replacement at nil.

And the reaction has been pretty much unanimous -- within hours of the announcement that Scalia had died, all six Republican presidential candidates said in last night's debate that no Obama nominee should be approved.

Republicans frequently have excellent message discipline, but it often takes them a while to settle on a message. Recall that they mostly went silent for a couple of days after the November shootings at a Planed Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Nothing like that happened after Scalia's death. They didn't have to huddle. They didn't have to consult with one another. They didn't have to take polls or do focus groups or whatever it is that they do when they have a delayed response to breaking news.

They knew something like this could happen -- maybe a death, maybe a resignation. For a while there was talk about Ruth Bader Ginsberg stepping down near the end of President Obama's term, to ensure that he'd choose her successor. The GOP had clearly thought this through already. The decision to block an Obama appointee was made long ago.

Matt Yglesias is right:

In fact, I don't think he goes far enough -- twelve months ago, Senate Republicans would have blocked any Obama appointee, even, say, an old-school Republican moderate sent up as an olive branch.

I know there's some skepticism about predictions of ongoing intransigence. Yastreblyansky, in comments yesterday, wrote:
Steve, if Obama doesn't get a nominee through the election will be entirely about Roe v Wade and Obergefell. Do you think the Republicans really want that? I think they're bargaining.
I think some of them may be bargaining. Mitch McConnell may be bargaining. But he's not just bargaining with the president -- he's bargaining with his own crazy voters, and they aren't inclined to bargain. That's why Donald Trump is leading in the GOP presidential race and Ted Cruz is second: because those two candidates agree with voters that compromise shouldn't be the way government does business. Trump is just presenting himself as a strongman, but Cruz is specifically endorsing the argument that Republicans should block literally everything Democrats want, even though the president is a Democrat and there are more than enough Democrats in Congress to sustain any Obama veto of Republican legislation. Republican voters think GOP members of Congress should resist all Democratic policies -- no, reverse them -- and anything less is treason. So McConnell has to promise absolute resistance to a replacement pick -- and he probably has to deliver, or Republicans will threaten to turn against the party in November (or in party primaries involving incumbents).

Yes, Republican obstructionism will motivate Democrats. But remember that Republicans scored a blowout in the 2014 midterms after the 2013 government shutdown. They probably fear alienating their own voters more than they fear motivating Democrats, because Democrats have a history of not having strong reactions to awful things done by the GOP.

The task now for Republicans is to declare any Obama nominee a dangerous extremist. They'll tell us that the nominee is the most radical person ever proposed for the Court, no matter who it is. Then their task is to bottle up the nominee well before summer.

Here's the problem: Democratic voters aren't like Republican voters. Republican voters are intensely political. They watch Fox and listen to talk radio all day. Far fewer Democratic voters are intensely political. That's why they weren't motivated by an active sense of rage at the 2013 government shutdown in 2014. If the Supreme Court fight fades from the headlines well before fall, it will loom in the background, but it won't inspire an active sense of rage, because Democrats don't nurse grievances for very long.

Or maybe I'm wrong:

Which is why I can imagine these Republican senators -- all of them up for reelection in November in states Obama won -- strategically breaking from their party and calling for a vote on Obama's nominee. Yes, I know: There are only 54 Republican senators, so if four break away, a nominee can be confirmed, right? Sure -- but Republicans could just filibuster the nominee, for which they'd need only 41 senators, and then any Republican who feels vulnerable can just theatrically denounce the obstructionism while doing nothing about it.

Am I reading this wrong? Am I just being my usual gloomy self, assuming that the GOP will win and pay no price? Maybe -- but the other possibility, and maybe it's a stronger one, is that Republicans will be overly confident of success because this kind of thing has been working for them going into midterm elections. Also, Establishment Republicans like McConnell probably feel they have to do this, out of fear of the GOP base. They may not care about the presidential race because they don't like Trump or Cruz -- they may jut think this is how they need to save their own asses given Republican voter rage. So they'll do it because they think they have no choice.


AllieG said...
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AllieG said...
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Erik C. said...

Not saying you're wrong about any of this, but we really do need to just sit back and wait. Surprisingly enough, there are also a lot of wingnuts who are just as convinced that President Obama will succeed in getting another Justice on the court.

Cathie from Canada said...

Here is what I think will happen:
This spring, Obama will nominate a reasonable moderate but the Republican Senate will refuse to fill the vacancy. This will allow Hillary to make saving SCOTUS and Roe v Wade the centerpiece of her campaign. Then Republicans will realize to their horror that Hillary is using this issue not only to win the election herself but to flip the Senate. So this fall, a group of desperate Repub senators will try to get Obama to nominate someone else to fill the vacancy. And he will refuse to do so, on the grounds that there is no longer enough time to vet the nominee through the process. Bada boom bada bing.

Victor said...

If you're a Republican, ya dance wid who brung ya - their insane, bigoted, and rabid base.

Ya don't change horses asses in mid-stream.

They will keep trying to find ways to obstruct, until the MSM finds one that they can sell.

I'm waiting for the Bork comparisons, if the nomination process even begins to get past OBama giving the Senate a list of names.

mlbxxxxxx said...

The loss of Scalia is a real blow and I do not think they will ever accept a "moderate" in his place from any president. If HRC wins in November with a GOP Senate remaining in place, I can imagine the impasse continuing indefinitely. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 7 member Court at some point. In fact, if the 7 member Court has a reliable 4-3 conservative majority, they may consider it providential and fight any new nominees.

fqmorris said...

I agree that Obama won't get a nominee conformation. But Democratic voter outrage won't be the result. Democratic voter fear will be. POTUS election will see a tidal wave of women voting to protect Abortion Rights from the barbarian American Taliban. It will be the #1 issue.

sdhays said...

If President Obama successfully appoints Scalia's replacement, the base will go wild with feelings of betrayal which could destroy any Republican hopes for November. Republican elected officials instinctively know that they simply can't allow it happen. Even the vulnerable ones from blue and purple states can't afford to alienate their base voters by even suggesting that they think the President should be allowed to replace Scalia. At best, they will say that this shouldn't be politicized and they should wait until after the election. Obama couldn't get a confirmation hearing for Robert Bork, let alone anyone half-sane.

The only way Obama replaces Scalia is if mass hypnotism is involved (or blackmail), and I don't see Obama employing either of those methods.

Orthodox said...

NC went blue in 08 and red in 12, not to mention elected another Republican senator in 14, so I doubt Burr will make much of a stink about this.

Victor said...

The cries of the new, 21st Century Republican "Patriots:"

"Give me obstruction, or give me death!"

Sharon Winfield said...

The problem isn't democratic voters in mid-term and down ballot elections, the problems are:

Inferior candidate recruitment by the relevant committees. Lots of democratic candidates that are more conservative than their districts.

Lackluster campaigning, no message, failure to energize voters. See 2014 Maryland gubernatorial candidate, Anthony Brown. His campaign was a dumpster fire. Running Blue Dogs who promise to follow through on Simpso Bowels recommendations. Yeah, that's popular among democratic voters.

Campaign fundraising that supports wasteful TV ad wars. What that ad buying does do is line the pockets of consultants who make the ad buys.

Democrats in the House need to reform their leadership, the team is old, too cautious and lacks craTive problem solving skills to engage electorate. They may be stellar in floor fights, but they've lost touch with the voters.

Feud Turgidson said...

Vicor may be on to something. The plan - typical leventy dimension chess: Obama this week nominates ... Robert Bork. The R universe goes bananas: too old, too quiet, not that funny, not moving so well these days, too set in his ways, too, I dunno, dead. BUT, the Senate Judiciary Cmte sets a hearing date. Weeks of third party witnesses, all wingnuttia, every one a pean to Bork. Then the big day...the hour arrives...they wait, and wait: no Bork. A no total no show! Some mentions maybe could be Bork is tied up, someone should check his hotel room. So then Judge Cenerentola Huffenpoufter reports: very dead, likely some time ago. Nation applauds Obama aise reach over, so very sorry everyone, I guess this time I gotta pick younger, so here we go: Sri Srisen - the sen means the tan is misleading, really Danish.

Constitutional crisis solved.

Gerald Parks said...

Hey ...let's be honest about this ...the GOP/Republicans have been the MOST obstructionist Party since The Civil War when it comes to the BLACK errrahhh... TWICE ELECTED ...POTUS Barack H Obama!

There is no way that they will ...without a fight ...allow THIS POTUS to "replace" this Supreme Court seat.

I believe and hope that POTUS Obama prevails in this fight AND that the GOP/Republican aka white mostly male christian domestic terrorist pay a steep price for their obstruction in the coming elections!

No starker contrast between the political Party's and how they operate in power exist at this time in US history!

Jim Sweeney said...

Obama will nominate Srinivasan, who got a unanimous vote three years ago, saying, "Almost all of you already voted for him. What's the problem now?" He will point to the Constitution, which nowhere says that appointments cannot be made in the last year of office. He'll emphasize once again that he and Joe are the only people in Washington elected by a majority of Americans.

Because I'm not a nice person, and the Senate is in recess, I think he should appoint someone tomorrow. Brennan was a recess appointment; if Eisenhower could do it, so could Obama.

Ten Bears said...

I almost posted the same yesterday but got sidetracked by the the grand-boyz: make the appointment, the nomination if you wish, now. Put it on the table. Put the ball in the Retards' court, give them enough rope, as g'da would've said, to hang themselves.