Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, considered one of the U.S. Senate’s foremost scholars of the Constitution and the Supreme Court, told Newsmax Friday he felt President Obama would nominate a decidedly liberal candidate to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
Prior to Hatch’s address to a packed luncheon in Washington DC hosted by the Federalist Society, we asked him if he felt the White House would select a nominee who is black or Hispanic to cause election-year difficulty for Republicans who oppose any Obama nomination on the grounds that the next President should fill the court vacancy.
"He could be headed in that direction," replied Hatch who has served as either chairman or ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1993-2005, "This [nomination process] is all about the election."
"The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate [to fill the court vacancy], but I don’t believe him," Hatch told us.
"[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man," he told us, referring to the more centrist chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia who was considered and passed over for the two previous high court vacancies.
But, Hatch quickly added, "He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants."
In an address rich with historical references and quotes from past Democratic senators about why judicial nominations should not be confirmed in election years, Hatch also cited Democratic tactics in the Senate that included holding up votes on George W. Bush’s Court of Appeals nominees for years.
Most recently, he said, the Senate adopted the "nuclear option" ending the filibuster on federal court nominees so Obama "could fill up the DC Court of Appeals one way or another."
The refusal of Senate Republicans to now consider an Obama nominee to the Supreme Court was, in Hatch’s words, "the chickens coming home to roost."
At one point in his remarks to the Federalist Society, Hatch was suddenly interrupted by a table of hecklers chanting "Do Your Job!"—the slogan of the left-of-center groups such as MoveOn.org that want the Senate to take up an Obama nomination this year. Federalist Society members finally escorted the hecklers from the event.
"This is nothing compared to what we’re going to face [over the Supreme Court nomination]," Hatch remarked after the incident, "It’s actually kind of fun."
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