Tags: | Supreme Court | scalia | supreme court | sotomayor

Could Obama Lean Right to Replace Scalia?

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Thursday, 18 Feb 2016 09:54 AM Current | Bio | Archive

No sooner had President Obama told reporters Wednesday that he would consider for the Supreme Court “any fair-minded person, even someone who disagreed with my politics” than speculation began: Could he nominate a Republican to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia?

In official Washington, the Republican name heard most after the president’s remark was that of former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a moderate-to-conservative who was considered close to Obama when the two served in the Senate together. President-elect Obama, in fact, nominated Gregg to be his secretary of commerce in 2009, but the Granite State senator eventually asked that his nomination be withdrawn.

With a lifetime rating of 78 percent from the American Conservative Union, Gregg nevertheless voted for Obama’s nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Skeptics note that, at age 69, Gregg is years above the age that justices are usually named and would most likely have a brief tenure. But supporters say that naming someone who would not serve on the court for a long time would actually make it easier for Republican senators to support the nomination.

Were Obama to turn to the former senator (and previous governor) from New Hampshire, it would be the first time since 1945 that a Democratic president turned to a Republican senator for the high court.

In September of that year, as a gesture of bipartisanship, President Truman appointed Sen. Harold Burton, R-Ohio, to the Supreme Court. Although they disagreed on several issues while in the Senate together, Truman and Burton worked closely on a special committee to investigate government war-time waste that was chaired by then-Sen. Truman of Missouri.

Burton was confirmed by the Senate without opposition.

“Appointing someone like Sen. Gregg would raise the odds on the president’s nomination getting a hearing in the Senate,” University of Pennsylvania Law School Prof. Kermit Roosevelt, III, told me. “The farther to the center or right the president goes, the better his chances [of a hearing and confirmation].”

Roosevelt, great-great-great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, added that a “Justice Gregg” succeeding Scalia would “be a move from the right to the center-right, just as the succession to Justice Sandra Day O’Conner by Samuel Alito was a move from the center-right to the right.”

“I have started to hear the speculation about Judd [as a Supreme Court nominee],” former Rep. Bill Zeliff, R-N.H., told me Wednesday, “and he would make a fine justice. He’s an outstanding person. But I don’t believe Obama will do it. I’m sure he’s going to name someone whom he thinks will energize the Democratic base the most.”

Zeliff is not alone in this view. In Washington, the two most-talked of prospects for nomination to succeed Scalia are Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Court of Appeals, who would be the first Indian-American justice, and Judge Paul Wartbold of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Wartbold, who is black, is a Harvard Law School classmate of Obama’s.

Both 48, Srinivasan and Watford are considered liberal jurists who interpret the Constitution as a “living document.” The nominations of either would be sure to stir up a major confirmation battle in the Senate.

Also reportedly on the Obama short list is the judge often referred on the Washington dinner party circuit as “the greatest justice who never was,” Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, reportedly vetted and passed over for the last two vacancies on the high court.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

 

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Were Obama to turn to the former senator (and previous governor) from New Hampshire, it would be the first time since 1945 that a Democratic president turned to a Republican senator for the high court.
scalia, supreme court, sotomayor
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2016-54-18
Thursday, 18 Feb 2016 09:54 AM
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