GOP, why you so mad?
OK, so they’ve got some reasons…
By Hadley Robinson
President Obama has put forward his choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, an uber-conservative who died unexpectedly in February after decades on the Supreme Court. The Republicans have said they aren’t going to even glance at anybody Obama picks.
But Obama’s going to keep trying. After some serious vetting, he went with Merrick Garland, a guy he likely thought they may like — he’s white, pretty old, and moderate on most of the hot-button issues.
But Republican leaders are still like:
Republicans claim Scalia’s replacement shouldn’t be decided in an election year. But Obama’s in office until next January and that’s kind of awhile to have a vacancy on the court that makes the final decision on many of the country’s most important dilemmas.
The GOP can make an issue of it, says University of Richmond Law professor Carl Tobias, who studies judicial selection. But that doesn’t mean it’s cool.
“There’s nothing in the Senate rules that is very clear,” Tobias told me. “So then you fall back on custom, tradition and conventions that apply, and those point in favor of giving the nominee some consideration — meeting with the nominee, holding a hearing and an up-or-down vote.”
So denying any consideration for Garland is highly unusual.
“I think its unprecedented to not do anything,” Tobias said.
But this contentiousness is the cap to a very nasty, divisive time in Washington. Let me tell you a bit more about the back-and-forth between all the ADULTS chosen by the PEOPLE to make decisions in Washington.
Presidents pick three levels of federal judges (who are supposed to be bipartisan and above politics btw). Supreme Court justices are the most important because they have the final say on everything. Below them are circuit judges, who make decisions for entire regions, and under them are district judges, who make decisions regarding federal law at the local level.
Since Obama became president, Republicans have been super harsh on all levels of judges. It’s pretty common for the opposing party to throw a ton of heat at the president’s nominees. A New York Times analysis from 2013 said that for circuit judges, the obstruction against Obama’s picks was at about the same level as under the administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
But Republicans blocked, or slowed the process extremely, for district judges. That meant by 2013 there were loads of vacancies across the country. And that matters because it means people’s cases aren’t heard and there are delays in delivering justice.
So, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Dems, who were the majority in Congress then, said “EFF THIS.” Republicans were using filibusters, which require a 2/3 majority, to block and slow nominees, even when most in the Senate wanted them. So in November 2013, the Dems straight changed the rules so they could override filibusters. It’s referred to as the nuclear option.
Democrats started confirming judges left and right in 2013 and 2014. But the Republicans were SO MAD.
“What we really need is an anti-bullying ordinance in the Senate. I mean, now we’ve got a big bully. Harry Reid says he’s just gonna break the rules and make new rules.”
When the Republicans took the majority in the Senate after the 2014 elections, it was payback time. The following year, 2015, had the fewest number of judges confirmed since 1960, Tobias said.
The nuclear option doesn’t apply to Supreme Court nominees, which means those people have an even tougher path to confirmation. But this refusal by the GOP to consider anybody President Obama puts forth is partially just further revenge for what the Dems did to them in 2013.
“It’s just a logical extension of what’s been happening before but at some point they need to stop — and worry about the courts instead of themselves,” Tobias said.
But they might be shooting themselves in the foot. Because if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders becomes president, they will surely try to push somebody far more liberal than Garland.
And if Trump is President…well, we’re all screwed.