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Supreme Court Nomination Faces Future Mired in Politics

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By    |   Tuesday, 22 Mar 2016 11:00 AM

The process to nominate justices to the Supreme Court may be the new normal, according to The New York Times.

President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland and the ensuing roadblock by the Senate judiciary points to a change in how vacancies have historically been filled on the high court.

"The problem is the whole thing is just getting ratcheted up, and maybe now we are in the a new era when the opposition party will refuse to confirm anyone," said Russell Wheeler, a federal judiciary expert at the Brookings Institution.

Both parties have been reluctant in recent years to back nominees who lean toward their opposition. That's a break from earlier confirmation processes, when the judiciary considered candidates and worked through its misgivings about them.

Senates controlled by Democrats have confirmed multiple nominees sent by Republican presidents. The last time a Republican-controlled Senate considered a Democratic president's nominee was during Grover Cleveland's presidency in 1895.

The last time a high court nominee by a president from one party was confirmed by a Senate from the other was in 1991, with Clarence Thomas.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Thomas "only got 52 votes. Anyone could have held that up, but we didn't do that."

Deferring to the president's nominees appears to be a thing of the past.

Samuel. A. Alito's confirmation was held up by a Democrat filibuster, and over 30 Republicans voted against Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in 2009 and 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is heading up the political roadblock against Garland. "I don't believe it's a good idea to move the court to the left," he said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

According to The Times, some Republicans have pointed out the Senate must act on the nominee next year, no matter who wins the presidency. But McConnell controls the floor, and Republicans could filibuster a nomination even if McConnell agrees to it.

Also, no matter which party controls the Senate, it's unlikely either side will have a majority enough to block the other side's filibuster.

If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, "the Democrats are not going to sit there and let bygones be bygones," said judiciary expert Wheeler. "They are going to raise heck."

Fifty-two percent of votes in a CBS News/New York Times poll said the Senate needs to vote on Garland's nomination.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona told CBS News that "certainly we are justified" in blocking the nomination, but "these are tough optics, I admit, but it's a risk that you take."

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The process to nominate justices to the Supreme Court may be the new normal, according to The New York Times.
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2016-00-22
Tuesday, 22 Mar 2016 11:00 AM
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