A general view of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, Dec. 30, 2014.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

An indefinite Supreme Court blockade picks up far-right backing

The New York Times highlighted an interesting anecdote this morning.
Senator Jeff Flake was startled a few months ago when a constituent pressed him on whether he was willing to hold up any Supreme Court nominee chosen by Hillary Clinton if she was elected president.

“I asked for how long, and he said for four years,” Mr. Flake, an Arizona Republican, recounted in an interview. “I said no, of course not. That is not what I came to Washington to do.”

But that’s precisely what some of his Republican colleagues are considering.
Flake added that Senate Republicans can’t reasonably expect to block any and all high court nominees from a Democratic White House, simply because they’re from a Democratic White House. “You shouldn’t and you can’t,” the Arizonan told the Times. “People expect to have a full court.”

Evidently, that depends on which “people” you’re referring to. Heritage Action, a project of the far-right Heritage Foundation, hosted a briefing yesterday on Capitol Hill, calling on Senate Republicans to leave Supreme Court vacancies alone “perhaps for as long as five years,” assuming there’s a Democratic president.

Dan Holler, Heritage Action’s vice president of communications and government relations, said such a gambit would require “an immense amount of willpower” from Senate Republicans, but they should be prepared to do it anyway.

It may seem absurd to think about the political dynamic this way, but relatively soon, the belief that the Senate should hold confirmation votes on qualified Supreme Court nominees will pass for “Republican moderation.”

Postscript: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who was quite explicit recently when touting his support for an indefinite GOP blockade, backpedaled a bit yesterday. The Republican incumbent, facing a tough re-election fight, said he’d “assess the record of any Supreme Court nominee.”

It’s an underwhelming vow – Burr effectively said he’d do the bare minimum expected of senators – offered a little too late to be convincing.