Just a couple of hours after news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death reached the public, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had an idea about how President Obama should fill the vacancy.
“No one will be appointed who isn’t a consensus choice,” Graham said. “Now can the president find someone who 90 percent of us will agree upon? Maybe someone like Orrin Hatch.”
It was a sign of the times: a Republican senator believes the Democratic president should nominate another Republican senator to the Supreme Court in the hopes of reaching a “consensus.” Democrats, presumably, would be expected to just go along.
It didn’t take long for Hatch, noting his advanced age of 82, to make clear he isn’t waiting by the phone for the president’s call. But the Utah Republican, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chiefly responsible for scrutinizing and approving judicial nominees, is nevertheless taking a prominent role in pitching the GOP case that the vacancy should remain in place until 2017.
Hatch spoke to PBS’s Judy Woodruff last night, repeating the arguments one would expect him to make. The senator said, for example, that “whoever wins the presidency is going to be able to make this nomination” – overlooking the nagging detail that Barack Obama has already won the presidency. Hatch added, “Usually, you never nominate anyone during the last year of a president,” a claim that is demonstrably untrue – not only have plenty of nominations come during presidential election years, they’re also usually confirmed. The longtime GOP senator has the entire story backwards.
Hatch added, in reference to his Senate colleagues’ penchant for politicization, “[L]ook at what they did to Clarence Thomas.” If by “what they did,” Hatch means confirm Clarence Thomas to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court, then sure, by all means, let’s “look at what they did.”
But it was the senator’s conclusion that simply amazed me.
“I just don’t want the court politicized. And this would be the biggest politicization the court in history. And that is saying something, because there have been some other times that certainly would come close to matching this.“But, in all honesty, I just don’t want to see the court denigrated any further than it would be in this very caustic election year with the way things are going right now.”
I don’t think he was kidding.
According to Orrin Hatch, following the process outlined in the Constitution risks “politicizing” and “denigrating” the Supreme Court. But allowing rabid partisans to impose a year-long blockade, motivated by nothing but contempt for a democratically elected president, and leaving a Supreme Court vacancy in place for 11 months, would calm the political waters.
In all honesty, I keep expecting Republicans to come up with better arguments. If this is the best the GOP can do, this dispute is only going to get uglier.