How to fix the Supreme Court – Ezra Klein Apr 14, 2017, 11:10am EDT

The way we choose Supreme Court nominees is broken. Here’s how to fix it.


It’s worth taking a step back to realize just how broken the process for selecting Supreme Court justices now is.

In 2016, Senate Republicans responded to Antonin Scalia’s death by inventing and establishing the absurd faux principle that open seats on the Supreme Court cannot be filled in an election year. Given that America hosts national elections one out of every two years, that means, in theory, that Supreme Court seats should remain unfilled fully 50 percent of the time.

But it gets worse. Democrats, infuriated by the GOP’s treatment of President Obama and Merrick Garland, filibustered Neil Gorsuch — the kind of broadly qualified nominee who would’ve passed easily in previous eras. In response, Senate Republicans eliminated the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations.

What we are seeing here is a case of what the political scientist Steven Smith calls “Senate syndrome”: One side breaks a norm or rule, then the other side breaks another in response, and the tit-for-tat escalates until the underlying process is in ruins. That’s now happened with Supreme Court nominations.

Here, in truth, is where the past few years have left us. The minority party no longer holds a scintilla of power over Supreme Court picks. The majority party can and will jam whomever they want onto the Court, where that person will serve for life. But in times when the Senate and the White House are controlled by different parties — which happens fairly often — there’s almost no chance that any seat on the Court will be filled.

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Senate GOP faces late cash crunch By Jack Shafer 10/15/16 07:46 AM EDT

 Democratic candidates and groups are set to spend more on TV ads in seven of eight key Senate states over the final four weeks.161014_pat_toomey_getty_1160.jpg

Democrats, who tied Republican Sen. Pat Toomey to Donald Trump in another new ad last week, have reserved $17 million of TV airtime there. | Getty

Democratic candidates and groups are set to spend more on TV ads in seven of eight key Senate states over the final four weeks.

Senate Republicans, whose fragile majority has been threatened by Donald Trump’s tanking presidential bid, are suddenly confronting another problem: a lack of cash.

Republicans are set to be massively outspent on TV ads in seven of the eight states that are likely to decide control of the chamber. The spending disadvantage could badly hinder the GOP’s prospects, and it has led to growing frustration among the party’s top strategists — many of whom are convinced it’s long past time to cut Trump loose and focus almost exclusively on preserving the Senate majority.

Republicans say they are particularly concerned that Democrats will use their financial advantage to tie the GOP candidates to an increasingly toxic Trump, who is now besieged by numerous accusations of sexual assault. In the New Hampshire Senate race — where Democrats have seized on GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s errant debate comment that Trump “absolutely” was a role model for children, which she hastily retracted — Democrats have booked nearly $16 million of TV airtime between Oct. 11 and Nov. 8, while Republicans have set aside over $12 million, according to a media tracking source. In Indiana, where another key contest is unfolding, Democrats are set to air over $7 million worth of commercials during the same time frame, while Republicans have booked around $4 million.

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Senate Republicans may defy NRA on gun bill

Photo: Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are expected to bring a bipartisan gun control bill to a vote this week despite opposition to the measure from the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups.

The measure, spearheaded by centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), would block people on two terrorist watchlists from buying guns.

Sources in both parties on Tuesday said the Collins legislation is gaining momentum — a sign that doing nothing to prevent terrorism suspects from obtaining guns is a problem for vulnerable Republicans in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting.

While the NRA is opposed to the measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is more focused on protecting his vulnerable incumbents and keeping control of the chamber in November, according to Senate GOP sources.

“He will not be dictated to,” one lawmaker said of the NRA’s efforts to pressure McConnell.

The Senate Democrat who launched last week’s filibuster on gun control depicted a vote on the Collins measure as a pivotal moment for the Senate, which on Monday rejected four other gun control bills.

Garland Watch: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says HURRY UP – By Lakshmi Varanasi MAY 2016

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, waiting. -- Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, waiting.
— Allison Shelley/Getty Images

It’s been 72 days since Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court, and Senate Republicans continue to block that nomination from even receiving a hearing. Garland Watch is a regular look at the week in Garland news and Senate obstruction.

Being Merrick Garland these days means being at the center of events for which you are not even present. Last week, Senate Democrats staged a mock hearing for Garland, without Garland. This week, Sen. Orrin Hatch, who, in a bygone time was one of Garland’s most vociferous supporters, already deemed his scheduled meeting with the nominee to be “unpersuasive,” even though it hasn’t happened yet.

It’s not all bad news for Garland. On Monday, Republican Congressman Daniel Donovan of New York called on fellow party members to consider Garland’s nomination. The congressman said, “You don’t have to confirm the nomination. But [the Senate] should hold the hearings and judge this person who’s the nominee on their credential.” (Though he subsequently admitted, “I haven’t looked at his credentials.”)

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Obama hammers GOP over Supreme Court vacancy – By Jesse Byrnes – 04/30/16 06:00 AM EDT

President Obama is pressing Senate Republicans to hold a hearing for his Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland more than a month after he nominated the judge.

“It’s now been 45 days since I nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.

“But so far, most Senate Republicans have refused to even meet with Judge Garland. Which means they’ve also refused to do their job and hold a hearing on his nomination, or an up-or-down vote.”

The president needled Republicans for having “found time to head home for recess over the next week” even as they refuse to act on the nomination.

“For over 40 years, there’s been an average of 67 days between a nomination and a hearing.  This time should be no different,” Obama said.

Senate Republicans have vowed not to take up Garland’s nomination this year, saying that the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled after the election.

Still, Democrats and outside groups maintain they have momentum in the Supreme Court fight, citing polls showing support for a hearing.

Fourteen Senate Republicans have met or will meet Garland by the end of the upcoming week. Most though have said they are unswayed.

“There is absolutely no reason for Republican Senators to deny him the basic courtesy of a hearing and a vote – the same courtesy that has been extended to others,” Obama said in his address.

“This refusal to treat a Supreme Court nomination with the seriousness it deserves is what makes people so cynical about Washington,” he added.

Senate GOP starts fast-track on bill to block Planned Parenthood funding – By Jordain Carney September 21, 2015, 08:17 pm

Senate Republicans on Monday night started the Senate’s fast-track process on legislation that would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) began the process, known as Rule 14, that will allow the legislation to skip over the Senate’s committee process and go straight to the Senate floor where it can be brought up for a vote. The Senate will likely complete the process on Tuesday.

The legislation, which passed the House last week by a 241-187 vote, would place a one-year freeze on federal funding for the organization giving lawmakers more time to investigate claims of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood made in a string of controversial videos.

Senate Republicans also started the fast-track process on a House-passed bill that would tighten restrictions on abortion doctors who violate infant protections.

The proposals come as Republican leadership is under pressure to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline to pass a government spending bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged to not let the government shutdown, and called his party’s push to defund Planned Parenthood as part of a spending bill an “exercise in futility.”

But Congress’ path to keeping the government open remains unclear with only a handful of days left before the deadline.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters that the Senate could take the lead on a funding bill, but added that “I don’t think it’s been finally decided.”