Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination Puts GOP in a Bind

Tanner Jones, staff writer

The last eight years of American politics have been defined by congressional gridlock. In 2010 and 2014, Republicans capitalized on low voter turnout and seized majorities in both chambers of Congress. Resultingly, obstructionism and polarization have become household terms in DC. Nearly every element of Obama’s agenda has been defined by this trend, as he has faced opposition with ACA, the Iran Deal, environmental legislation, immigration reform, and many other keystone components of policy. Today we see that yet again Obama is faced with GOP resistance, as recently, a new spark has flared seemingly unfounded Congressional aggression.

Last month Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, and it didn’t take long for political battlelines to be drawn on his grave. Scalia, a stringent originalist, left the court at a precarious 4-4 split, meaning that Obama’s nomination could potentially turn the tide of American politics. For a Republican Congress, this possibility is unfavorable (to say the least).

Fulfilling his constitutional duty, Obama has moved forward with the SCOTUS nomination, and unsurprisingly, shortly after making these intentions clear, Obama began to face an outcry of Republican opposition. The GOP’s position is essentially that Obama must, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put it, “defer to the people,” seeing that this is an election year. This claim not only diverges from constitutional guarantees, it also has been dubbed, by influential liberal pundits, no more than political maneuvering. Since the GOP has a shot at the White House (well…) and therefore the SCOTUS nomination in November, their motivations exist only in hopes at maintenance of a conservative court.

Just two days after Scalia’s death, a coalition of Republican Senators pledged not to consider any nomination presented by Obama. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), last week, expressed concern over the situation, explaining his fear that Obama wouldn’t nominate a moderate, only a “divisive liberal.” One such moderate that Hatch mentioned was Merrick Garland, “[Merrick’s] intelligence and scholarship cannot be questioned,” Hatch said. Last week, much to Hatch’s (and surely many of his party’s leaders) dismay, Garland was nominated by president Obama to replace Antonin Scalia.

Garland has been considered a foremost legal mind and esteemed constitutional analyst. Additionally, the successful prosecution of criminals involved in the Oklahoma City Bombing is widely attributed to Garland. For many, across the aisle, Garland checks off most boxes, and for this reason, the Republican stance has waivered considerably.

For the GOP, confirming Garland may be the best option to achieve a somewhat favorable court. GOP presidential aspirations are swiftly waning as predictions of a contested convention and a delegate-heavy Trump bid dominate headlines. And, in the event of a democratic presidency in 2017, and a likely Democratic senate (only 4 seats are needed), a much more liberal nomination will surely be in question. This leaves the Republicans in a bind, turning their backs on “deferring to the people,” would produce indisputable claims of obstructionism, and not doing so would mean giving up the Supreme Court.

The Republican’s plight comes at fault of Republicans themselves, and whatever decision is made, it’s clear that the GOP didn’t play its cards quite right. To quote the GOP’s former patriarch, Ronald Reagan, “It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions,” nowhere can this be done faster than in Congress.