Thursday, March 17, 2016

Will Merrick Garland Be the Next Supreme Court Justice?

Update 3/21: With Illinois GOP Senator Kirk advising that the Senate should "man up" and not only hold hearings but vote on Garland, the Senate Majority Leader doubled down on his obstructionism on Sunday, stating categorically that Garland will not be confirmed, before or after the election.  It used to be that Senators at least pretended they were approving Supreme Court appointees solely on the basis of their judicial qualifications and not for partisan or ideological reasons.  But on Sunday the majority leader actually gave as his reason why Garland would never be a Justice that the National Rifle Association opposes him.

President Obama's appointment of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy was greeted by the media as a solid, "sensible" and excellent choice, a judge who is more qualified than any in a generation and has had wide bipartisan support before, but an appointment that seems to have little or no chance of succeeding.

That's because the Senate Republican Majority Leader immediately announced there would be no hearings and no vote on this appointment in this Congress.  This is a continuation of what GOPer leadership has been saying since virtually the moment that Justice Scalia's death was announced.

The alternative, some speculated, might be that if a Democrat were elected President in November, and especially if Democrats became the Senate majority again, that a "lame duck" session of Congress (a name for the period between the election and inauguration of a new President) might conceivably vote to approve Garland, partly due to GOPer fear of Hillary appointing a more liberal (and younger) Justice.  However, most concluded, this was still unlikely, and Garland is an extremely well qualified sacrificial lamb.

But on "All Things Considered" Wednesday evening, veteran Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenburg--probably the most respected journalist covering the Court and certainly the one I consider most credible-- said at least twice that Republican leaders have by "back channels" assured the White House that if a Democrat is elected President in November, they will vote to confirm Garland in the lame duck session.

Nobody else I've seen has confirmed this story.  But if it's correct, and if the GOPer leadership is true to its word (and I tend to believe the former before the latter), then Merrick Garland is no "sacrificial lamb" but more probably the next new Justice of the Supreme Court.

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