January 31, 2017

What to Expect When You're Expecting a SCOTUS Nomination

  • The Democrat playbook for Republican Supreme Court nominees is consistent.
  • No matter who the nominee is, they will obstruct confirmation.
  • No matter how mainstream the nominee’s views are, Democrats will say they are extreme.

expect democrats to obstruct

The president will nominate a Supreme Court justice this evening. No matter who the president chooses, Democrats will obstruct the confirmation process. Even before the new president was inaugurated, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer pledged that Democrats would fight “tooth and nail” to block the Republican nominee and that they “are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice.” He even threatened to “do our best to keep the seat open.” 


The New York Times reported on January 24 that liberal groups are already planning “a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed at ensuring that conservative Democratic senators ... do not vote for Mr. Trump’s nominee.” One liberal activist boasted to the newspaper that the groups “are prepared to oppose every name on Trump’s list.” According to Politico on January 30, “Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to the fill the current vacancy.” The Washington Post on January 31 counseled, “let the Senate vote – yes or no.”

President Obama was the first Senator to become president who voted to filibuster a Supreme Court pick, when he joined the filibuster of Justice Samuel Alito. Even though he tried to obstruct the confirmation of a highly qualified Supreme Court nominee, President Obama himself observed that “that there is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers and mechanisms to block the president.” He added, “there's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values, and that's to win elections.”

By promising to frustrate the new president’s Supreme Court nomination process, the Democrats appear ready not to follow Republican senators’ example of giving a new president’s Supreme Court picks an up-or-down vote. Republicans gave this courtesy to President Clinton when he nominated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 and Justice Stephen Breyer in 1994. Republicans extended this tradition to President Obama’s nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Justice Elena Kagan in 2010.

expect the Left to use scare tactics

Democrat senators and liberal activists can be expected to use disingenuous scare tactics to make a mainstream Republican nominee seem extreme. When Justice Clarence Thomas was nominated in 1991, left-wing activists pledged that they were “going to Bork him” – a reference to liberal groups’ and Democrat senators’ attacks on Judge Robert Bork when he was nominated to the court by President Reagan. The pattern goes back even further.

  • When President Ford nominated Justice John Paul Stevens – no right-wing ideologue – to the Supreme Court, one liberal activist testified at his confirmation hearing about her “grave concern” on his nomination and accused him of “antagonism to women's rights.”
  • The same playbook was used for Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1987. At his confirmation hearings, left-wing groups warned that his nomination “should be unsettling to those concerned with the health and legal status of women in America,” that his record on civil rights “is not reassuring,” and that his “notion of justice is too narrow for him to be worthy of a role as a final arbiter of the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.”
  • When President Bush nominated Justice Souter to the court in 1990, Senator Ted Kennedy said that Souter’s positions were “troubling” and that there was “little in his record that demonstrates real solicitude for the rights of those who are weakest and most powerless in our society.” Liberal activists at the confirmation hearings warned that Souter’s “judicial temperament” was “very disturbing,” that he had “not demonstrated fairness or even compassion for racial minorities,” and that “instead of tearing down the walls of discrimination, Judge Souter's confirmation could mean the erection of new barriers, a step backwards into dark ages we will no longer accept.” 

Issue Tag: Judiciary