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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has held preliminary discussions with his team about whom to nominate to the Supreme Court, the White House said on Monday, while accusing Senate Republicans of “bluster” for saying they would not confirm his pick.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters administration officials had started talking with Senate offices about the process, which is shaping up to be an epic fight between Republicans and Democrats in a presidential election year.

Republicans, who control the Senate, say Obama should put off naming a replacement for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, and leave it to the next president to decide. Democrats say it is the president’s responsibility and right to make the choice.

Americans will choose a new president in the Nov. 8 elections. Obama leaves office in January 2017.

Scalia’s death leaves the court evenly divided between liberal and conservative justices just as it is set to decide major cases on abortion, voting rights and immigration.

A growing number of Republican senators have already said they will not support an Obama nominee, including a dozen who are up for reelection in November. On Monday, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio each announced their opposition. Both are up for reelection this year.

“This is not the first time that Republicans have come out with a lot of bluster, only to have reality ultimately sink in,” Schultz said, citing recent spats over raising the U.S. debt limit and approving a nuclear deal with Iran.

“At each pass, they took a hard line. They tried to play politics. But ultimately, they were not able to back up their threats,” Schultz said.

Republicans shrugged off the criticism, pointing to past political battles over Supreme Court nominees. In 2006, Democratic leaders in the Senate, as well as then-Senator Obama, tried but failed to block President George W. Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, noted Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Memories tend to be short around here sometimes,” he said.


Obama, in California for a long-planned summit with Southeast Asian leaders, will return to Washington on Tuesday after a press conference at which he is sure to face questions about his strategy for filling the Supreme Court vacancy.

David Axelrod, a former adviser to the president, said the White House should not make an “overtly political” pick while Republicans were behaving in a such a political manner themselves.

“To me, it makes sense to nominate one of the stellar judges he’s already chosen who has been approved by this same Senate that now refuses to act,” Axelrod said.

One possible contender is Sri Srinivasan, who Republican senators supported in 2013 when he was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Schultz declined to speculate on names or strategy.

Obama will look for a nominee with “impeccable credentials” who believes in adherence to precedent and bringing one’s own ethics and moral bearings to decisions on the court in which the law is not clear, he said.

“The president seeks judges who understand that justice is not about some abstract legal theory, or a footnote in a casebook, but it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of peoples’ lives,” Schultz said.

Leaving the vacancy unfilled could affect the court both this year and next, Schultz said, calling on the Senate to act.

“The Constitution does not include exemptions for election years or for the president’s last term in office. There’s no exemptions for when a vacancy could tip the balance of the court,” he said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Alan Crosby, Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia during a statement delivered in Rancho Mirage, California February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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18 responses to “Obama Starts Work To Pick Supreme Court Justice Amid Political ‘Bluster’”

  1. Grannysmovin says:

    Mitch McConnell must be showing signs of dementia because in 2005 he stated: “The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation. In effect, they would take away the power to nominate from the President and grant it to a minority of 41 Senators.”

    “[T]he Republican conference intends to restore the principle that, regardless of party, any President’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote. I know that some of our colleagues wish that restoration of this principle were not required. But it is a measured step that my friends on the other side of the aisle have unfortunately made necessary. For the first time in 214 years, they have changed the Senate’s ‘advise and consent’ responsibilities to ‘advise and obstruct.'”

    • Dominick Vila says:

      Don’t forget that this is the same person that admitted that the obstructionism embraced by the GOP, that delayed the economic recovery, job creation, jeopardized our infrastructure, and that caused so much misery to millions of Americans, was a ploy to ensure President Obama was a one term President…and Conservatives in Kentucky loved him for that and re-elected him.

      • Paul Bass says:

        Cons in KY might be a different set of voters than say, independents voting in 2016 for a president. We would hope.

        • Independent1 says:

          Conservatives in KY have to be a special bunch; given that under long-term GOP governance, KY has the 4 counties that lead the U.S. in being the poorest, most deprived counties in the U.S. economically, and yet KY continues to vote GOP politicians into national and state office clearly against their own best interests.

    • TZToronto says:

      Republican Senators arebetweena rock and a hard place–several hard places, actually. They can’t bring a nomination to the floor for a vote since to do so would would represent caving into President Obama. And if they did, there are a few Republican Senators who feel that they must consider a nominee based on qualiications, not on which party or political orientation would benefit. They might vote to confirm. If McConnell and the Republicans refuse to bring the nomination to a vote, independents might decide that this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and vote straight Democratic. If Republicans wait for a new President, they could be looking at a Democratic President and Senate, and the nomination could be more left than Obama’s nomination. And if they just let the nomination sit, the 4-4 split could let “offensively” lower court rulings stand. if Roberts decides to punt important cases to the next court, that could be viewed as overtly partisan, leading to a major Republican defeat in November.

  2. atc333 says:

    This argument by the GOP is Obscenely Perverse.It is not about “The American people choosing the next Supreme Court Justice”. It is all about power, politics and getting their way at any cost to the litigants before the Court and the American People. If a Republican was now in the Oval Office, we all know they would be arguing the Constitutional Duty of the GOP President to nominate, and the Senate to confirm that nomination.

    Total BS, the culmination of 7 years of GOP block and stall.

  3. FT66 says:

    No backing down Mr. President . Go ahead and perform the duties you were elected for. You will always be remembered as someone who carried his duties in a very difficult circumstances and succeeded, you never absconded from your job like some of those who are fighting now to take it.

    • Godzilla says:

      Agreed, the worst President in this country’s history should indeed prove his worth and nominate another loser Liberal, only to be rebuffed by what few people with an IQ higher than 12 still remain in the Senate, which isn’t many, but it only takes a few.

      • Godzilla says:

        Then again, the Republicraps haven’t exactly shown that there are two separate teams in DC, so maybe the SCOTUS will finally fulfill the Liberal desire to turn this country into Detroit and Chicago, your great social accomplishments.

      • Paul Bass says:

        “He kept us safe”

        Bha Ha Ha Ha Ha,
        The greatest terrorist act ever committed on US soil! Hundreds dead in NO because GWB is too lazy, Went from greatest net positive budget to greatest deficit budget in 8 years. etc.Widely believed to be the worst modern president, by MANY non-partisan groups.

        But wait, you aren’t talking about Shrub Jr.? Boy are you a GOP tool!

      • Paul Bass says:

        You are a special kind of tool how makes fun of Mental Retardation Special Needs folks by comparing them to Senators. At about an IQ of 60, you are rarely verbal and need constant 24/7 care, anything less than that you’re pretty much a vegetable.

        Please refrain from MR/IQ jokes, you don’t know what you are talking about, and the parents of these kids are brutalized by your unthinking remarks. Thank you.

  4. Dominick Vila says:

    I would not be surprised if President Obama nominates a constitutional scholar, with a centrist record. He is not going to nominate a liberal, or even a center-left jurist. That would not only guarantee rejection, it would also give the far right the opportunity to justify their rejection. Needless to say, the far right is going to find something, and regardless of how insignificant or trivial it may be, they will use it to reject the first nominee. They really don’t have a choice. They have to do it for political reasons and to satisfy the expectations of a rabid mob looking for blood.
    In the interim, we have a Court that is ideologically evenly split, and one likely to make unpredictable decisions, or delay decisions until a new Justice is confirmed and sworn.

  5. Godzilla says:

    Seems the shoe is on the other foot folks.

    • Paul Bass says:

      But, the Dems DID confirm Bush appointee, so NO you are EXACTLY WRONG!

      Schumer saying Dems should do something, and the GOP actually obstructing Obama BEFORE a name is even mentioned, ARE indeed, TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!

      I don’t really expect you to understand this complex thought, and expect more verbal barf from you in return.

  6. ralphkr says:

    I am surprised that I have not seen any conjecture about the possibility of Obama completely bypassing the Senate and making a temporary appointment while Congress is in recess and then nominating a permanent justice to replace the temp after Congress returns. This allows Obama to put the person he wishes in the Supreme Court to serve until replaced by a permanent nominee. Obama could then nominate a permanent Justice and start the battle with a Congress which, with their current attitude, I doubt would accept any nominee more liberal than Pat Robertson.

  7. Paul Bass says:

    The cons have worked themselves into a corner. They can’t let Obama nominate ANYONE, because that person would not be a nazi like Scalia. So they can only delay, which makes them look bad, but at least they won’t lose to a primary challenger.

    Whoever Obama selects, it doesn’t matter. Jesus wouldn’t have a chance because the GOP would say he didn’t start walking on water till he was 30. GOP/TP can’t let ANYONE pass, or their base eats them in the primary.

    Hopefully this will bring Independents and Dems out in droves, to defeat these punks.

  8. I of John says:

    As always Obama is running tactical circles around the GOP. If the Senate fails to begin the process of replacing Scalia they eat 9 months of tie SCOTUS decisions and further risk an unfettered new DNC President’s nomination. All the while showing that a non working Congress is still disfunctional. If Obama nominates a person with a unique resume that would appear to be discriminated against in this way, again this looks bad for running Senators who gave to put their names on the line. And if Obama fights for and wins his last SCOTUS fight, well that would be that.

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