It’s now been 169 days since President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
The waiting game to act on Garland’s nomination has become status quo in the headlines. It’s just assumed now that action on the nomination will have to wait until after November’s election.
But at least some Republican senators are questioning this tactic, realizing what would be at stake if Trump lost his bid for the presidency — or even worse if the Republicans also lost their control over the Senate.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hinted this week that hearings could take place during a ‘lame duck’ session of Congress — and while this was quickly countered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, even the consideration is showing the angst within the rank-and-file Republicans.
‘What if?’ is too powerful of a motivator in this high-stakes game of political Russian-roulette, with the worst outcome being a Clinton victory paired with a withdrawal of Garland’s nomination by President Obama.
In a field of unlimited uncertainty, Garland has at least some qualities that are appealing to the conservatives.
He’s a decade older than the last three justices were at time of appointment. Like it or not, the length of tenure is certainly a factor to consider.
With a lengthy history on the bench and more moderate appeal than Kagan or Sotomayor, a partial victory of confirming a more moderate justice would be a bitter pill to swallow, but it would still be better than being forced to consider a more liberal nominee.
And they also have to consider that many of the 4-4 ties at the Supreme Court have been outright losses — most recently the N. Carolina voting laws being blocked, but also a long stream of tied rulings that will eventually be revisited by the court.
But one thing is certain, as rhetoric heats up on both sides about the Senate’s inaction, it will be a tell-tale sign of how the political fortune tellers are reading the signs for the next two months.
Because one side will use this nomination as a political weapon, while the other will use it as damage control — and it’s not totally apparent yet which role each party will be taking.