Senate Republicans triple down on SCOTUS obstruction

Senate Republicans have spent the day digging in their heels even deeper against allowing President Obama to appoint a replacement for Antonin Scalia. Today, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter insisting that they will not old hearings on any potential Supreme Court nominees until after President Obama leaves office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with Senators Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn, also said that they would refuse to even meet with a hypothetical nominee in private, let alone hold confirmation hearings in public, let alone hold an actual vote on their confirmation.

In other words, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary are planning to walk the halls of Congress screaming NANANANANCANTHEARYOU for eleven months, because there isn’t a rule saying they can’t. They’re at a point where, like newborn babies, they will behave as though things they don’t see have in fact ceased to exist. It’s childish, but after seven years they’ve learned that flipping a table and throwing a temper tantrum incurs fewer political costs than giving President Obama any ground.

Orrin Hatch, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Orrin Hatch, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

In this case,  Senate Republicans are throwing traditional norms of governance out the window because the stakes are much higher than normal. Allowing President Obama to appoint a replacement for Antonin Scalia will flip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, giving liberals five consistent votes for the first time in over fifty years. That would throw a wrench into the GOP’s overarching political strategy, which has become increasingly reliant on using the court system as a means for bypassing legislative gridlock of their own creation to enact their agenda.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the battlegrounds over LGBT equality. Every plausible Republican candidate has promised to, if elected, appoint Supreme Court justices who will not only overturn Roe v. Wade, but who will also overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and Windsor v. Connecticut. Those same justices would also likely have problems with new legislation like the Equality Act, which extends federal non-discrimination legislation on the basis of sexual and gender identity, while being favorable to new legislation like the First Amendment Defense Act, which is little more than a “gay-neutral” vehicle to sanction anti-LGBT discrimination.

On the flip side, the President has an opportunity to nominate a jurist who would build on the legal victories the LGBT community fought for in Obergefell and Windsor. His nominee could hold, for instance, that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender identity is already illegal under Civil Rights Act, as arguments from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice (and at least one US District Court) have suggested. Lower courts disagree on this question, which means that it will likely wind up before the Supreme Court in the not-too-distant future:

Given that the Republican-controlled Congress will continue to block the Equality Act indefinitely, the biggest opportunities to turn its proposed protections into legal realities will be through the courts.

President Obama is about to nominate someone to the Supreme Court who can solidify and improve upon the gains the LGBT community has made in the last seven years. Conservatives are well aware of how big of a deal that is, and are willing to go all-out to make sure it doesn’t happen. Here’s hoping the Democrats come to play, too.



Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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20 Responses to “Senate Republicans triple down on SCOTUS obstruction”

  1. Butch1 says:

    Storm their offices and have a sit-in. Constant protests until they do their jobs might be an answer from the people instead of silently watching them pull this tantrum and not fulfilling their job or letting Obama do his.

  2. Qwertyy650 says:

    “Given that the Republican-controlled Congress will continue to block the Equality Act indefinitely, the biggest opportunities to turn its proposed protections into legal realities will be through the courts.”
    I disagree. The biggest opportunity is to vote these jerks out of office.

  3. TellMeImDreaming says:

    They’re opportunistic thieves.

  4. Butch1 says:

    I’m surprised the opposition hasn’t come up with something to counter this yet.

  5. There is really nothing that can be done. This is why I get so angry when in off year elections dems don’t show up to vote. By staying at home they help to create the problem.

  6. GregH3000 says:

    LGBT rights are relatively low on my list of priorities since it would only affect one relatively small demographic. How about nullifying corporate personhood for starters, and looking into the false ratification of the 16th amendment; these two changes would liberate everyone.

  7. Houndentenor says:

    They’ve been pulling it for quite some time. Why would they stop now?

  8. Houndentenor says:

    Democrats have a good chance at taking back the Senate. the House not so much, but the Senate is doable. 2018 is another story entirely (in that election a lot of Democrats in contested states will be up for re-election, the opposite of this year).

  9. Houndentenor says:

    They don’t even know who the nominee is yet? They can’t even be bothered to pretend that it’s about the nominees qualifications or judicial philosophy. Will this finally motivate Democrats to show up and vote?

  10. Butch1 says:

    That’s unfortunate; Obama ought to go ahead and choose one during one of these pseudo sessions and let the Supreme Court decide whether the person can sit on the Court or not. If they can “pretend” they are in session, certainly he can pretend they are “out of session” and choose an Emergency Supreme Court Justice. Let them moan and cry foul all they want; they are bending the rule and so should he in my opinion. I do not think one Senator is an “open session” and neither would the country. This technicality needs to stop.

  11. Butch1 says:

    They have, but I wonder if they will still pull this?

  12. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    Recess appointment.

  13. Isn’t it Republicans that are always yammering on about “rule of law?”

  14. emjayay says:

    I believe that the Supremes decided that pretending to be in session counted for actually being in session.

  15. emjayay says:

    It’s only the Senate, and all that depends on the numbers after the next election. But if they can, they will.

  16. timncguy says:

    If the dems take control of the senate back in November, the new senators will take office in the beginning of Jan. That will give Obama until Jan 20th to allow the new dem majority to approve his nominee

  17. douglas01 says:

    I sincerely hope that the Senate leadership, all of them, die a very slow and painful death. And even that will be too good for them.

  18. cinorjer says:

    Don’t forget when a Democrat gets elected the Republican congress will continue to block any nomination. They will insist on only confirming another conservative judge or hold endless filibusters. When they’re told they must confirm someone, they’ll claim it’s the Democrat’s fault for not nominating another Scalia.

  19. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    In the past, haven’t they avoided adjournment by keeping one person in the chamber? The GOP can’t sell their philosophy, so they will manipulate things to go their way.

  20. Butch1 says:

    They are bound to have a recess some time this year; that should be the time he just appoints the person to the Supreme Court without any fanfare. Let them scream and carry one all they want. They asked for it and they will deserve it. It will be perfectly legal.

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