Are the Republicans Divided About New Supreme Court Stonewall?

blog_2016_01_29-b_1VARIED OPINIONS ON SUPREME COURT BLOCKADE: There was further debate about threats raised by three Republican senators of a potential indefinite blockade of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court choice, if Clinton is elected.

“Obama Nails Republicans For Hyper-Partisan Reversal On Supreme Court Nominees,” Huffington Post reported. A Washington Post blog said, “Senate Republicans could block Clinton Supreme Court nominees indefinitely but it wouldn’t be the best idea” politically for those doing the obstructing. In the New York Times, David Leonhardt criticized “The G.O.P.’s Radical Supreme Court Talk.”

While the idea of continued obstruction seems to be rapidly gaining mainstream status among Senate Republicans, a few have sounded notes of dissent. The Hill reported about Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, “GOP senator: I’d consider Clinton Supreme Court pick.” Said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., according to New Hampshire Public Radio, “Obviously I will carefully vet whoever is proposed and make sure they’re not only qualified, but I’ll want to understand their constitutional philosophy, but I would not support the proposal to permanently block filling that court [position].”

OBAMA’S JUDICIAL LEGACY: Law.com has a multi-article analysis of President Obama’s impact on the federal judiciary (registration required). Here are excerpts:

  • Diversity: “Obama fulfilled his commitment to make the federal courts more inclusive and appointed more women, more racial and ethnic minorities and more openly gay judges than any previous president.”
  • Judicial philosophy: “Obama appointees are generally seen as centrists who approach cases from a posture of judicial restraint—and not, as one lawyer put it, judicial ‘freelancers’ willing to second guess lawmakers or bend the law to achieve a particular outcome.”
  • Supreme Court: “Turning to the court that counts the most, a statistical look at Obama’s two U.S. Supreme Court picks, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, also concludes that they lean leftward more than right, though not by that much.”

STATE COURT ELECTIONS: In a report from Kansas, where five of seven state Supreme Court justices are up for retention (yes-or-no) election, NPR said no Kansas justice “has ever been voted out” but this year “as with national politics, the script has been thrown out, and … the Kansas Supreme Court could completely change.” Observed Alicia Bannon of the Brennan Center for Justice about increasingly partisan and negative judicial elections, “It’s essentially created an arms race, where you have a lot of money going in and interest groups basically trying to shape who’s sitting on the courts and the decision that the courts are making.”