Green Room

Sotomayor or Healthcare “reform”?

posted at 10:12 am on May 28, 2009 by

Senate Republicans plan no scorched-earth opposition to Judge Sotmayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. This dismays conservatives so predictably that Democrats like James Carville would like to fuel it. To date, commentary on the issue tends to be rather narrow, considering how forcefully Republicans (or conservatives, which is a different calculation) should oppose Sotomayor as a single issue in a vacuum.

However, earlier this week, Richard Wolffe reported at The Daily Beast that “[b]y drawing fire to its Supreme Court nominee, Obama’s aides believe that health-care and environmental politics may face less-intense opposition.” The next day, Jan Crawford Greenburg reported for ABCNews:

There also was a slightly different political argument. Advisers calculated she would be the savviest move for the President to avoid an all-out battle over his Court nominee, according to sources close to the process.

With the president hoping to achieve a crowning accomplishment in his first year with health care reform, advisers pointedly warned against another big fight elsewhere, sources said.

Those two accounts might seem contardictory at first blush, but both reveal a White House that wants to conserve its resources for building a Left-center coalition around a government takeover of the healthcare sector, while hoping to distract conservatives with a fight over Sotomayor (fighting among themselves as well as with Democrats). Wolffe’s fight scenario is the more plausible, as it fits with Pres. Obama’s general “too much, too soon” approach. He does not want a perceived crisis to go to waste, and likely has calculated that his best strategy is to mount a multi-front war that divides and overwhelms his opponents.

The Senate remains the real obstacle on all of these fronts. The difference among these fronts is that stopping Sotomayor currently appears to be the least promising for the GOP. Indeed, even if the GOP managed to derail Sotomayor, Obama would simply turn to the next left-wing judge on his list.

In contrast, there is a much greater likelihood of getting a few key Democratic defections on the more controversial elements of whatever healthcare proposal emerges from Sen. Baucus’s sausage factory, or on any cap-and-trade proposal to wreck the economy in pursuit of insignificant reductions in projected global warming. Moreover, a defeat on these agenda items could take them off the table for years.

Senate Republicans institutionally have less staff and fewer resources to mount each fight than the Democrats in the majority, let alone the bureaucracies that can be mobilized by the Obama White House. (There is also the related issue of whether the Senate GOP can walk and chew gum at the same time.) Accordingly, it makes more sense for GOP Senators to fight harder on the issues they stand a better chance of winning, particularly given the weight Obama has put on those issues.

That does not mean that Sotomayor should get a free pass. She is a deeply political pick who engages in racial stereotyping and doubts whether she can rise above her own biases in most cases. Senate Republicans can make the debate on her nomination a teachable moment, making the case that the philosophy she and Obama espouse runs directly contrary to the oath federal judges take. But given the marginal benefit of actually derailing Sotomayor, Senate Republicans should probably save the scorched earth tactics for fighting a government takeover of healthcare.

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Thanks, Karl. Really insightful post. Government taking over our healthcare is the real threat here and I hope those dopey Senators follow your advice.

marybel on May 28, 2009 at 11:19 AM

Your right that government run health care is the bigger problem than one racist socialist replacing a justice who is only somewhat left of center.

darktood on May 28, 2009 at 11:42 AM

yep. sonia sucks, but we have bigger fish to fry.

homesickamerican on May 28, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Absolutely. Heath care is going to be the big fish. I hear Obama said “now or never”. That’d be great if we could provide the never. At least Obama’s socialist health care.

There is also the related issue of whether the Senate GOP can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Sad. True.

petunia on May 28, 2009 at 4:18 PM

The Republican Party has become the most pathetic, spineless, group of RINOs ever assembled. Where the hell is their outrage as Obama destroys this country? Now we have to pick one isolated topic to try and muster enough testosterone to put up a half assed battle. The party disgusts me for what it has become.

trs on May 28, 2009 at 4:24 PM

okay, but if socialized health care or any of the other obamaist monstrosities ever gets challenged by conservatives in the courts, only to be rebuffed, with a very wise latina authoring the majority opinion, well, at least we can take comfort in knowing we weren’t overly confrontational back in 09.

AdrianG on May 28, 2009 at 4:26 PM

remember when the democrats decided to wholeheartedly support our troops, and insisted on defending our border, because they knew they had to concede those two fights so they could focus on their lone priority of nationalizing healthcare? funny, because i don’t!

AdrianG on May 28, 2009 at 4:30 PM

I would recommend to the Republican Senators to take on Sotomayer based on her stand on the 2nd Amendment, her New Haven ruling, and her feeling that policy should be made by the Appeals court and leave out any reference to her intelligence, ethnicity or her gender.

technopeasant on May 28, 2009 at 4:31 PM

Spot on analysis. Ask Soto tough questions, vote against her, but move on. The real battle is about health care.

pearson on May 28, 2009 at 4:33 PM

but thank goodness at least they don’t have the energy to both takeover the american auto industry and impose draconian environmental schemes on the populace all at once. i mean, the way they only pick a single issue and work exclusively on it instead of anything else, well, it just makes it so easy to fight them! who knew politics was such a snoozefest?

AdrianG on May 28, 2009 at 4:34 PM

I’m just clueless here in all this “dilemma” crap …

This is easy.

No need to talk about filibuster until the woman’s been questioned.


If at the end of that – it’s clear there’s no BI-PARTISAN support for a filibuster – don’t do one.

Republicans should VOTE HER DOWN – sure she’ll pass – but the GOP shouldn’t support her.

If there’s Bi-partisan support for a filibuster – then do it – fine.

Healthcare doesn’t relate to this – we can do more than one thing at a time. I think we will have some bi-partisan help in shooting down health care.

There are going to be a helluva lot of negative running against Obama. Many on Soto, and MANY MORE prolly on healthcare. I hope he’s ready for it because he’s going to fighting a lot of supposedly dead, “ZOMBIE” Conservatives out here.

In fact … we should all get bumper stickers … “ZOMBIE CONSERVATIVE” – because according to the MSM – we’re the walking dead!

HondaV65 on May 28, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Yep HEALTHCARE is GROUND ZERO !!! We can not let them ruin our health care system.

We should act like we think (have sources) that SotoMayor is pro-life, ain’t gonna oppose HER ! Let the prochoicers take her out.

stenwin77 on May 28, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Why on earth do we have to choose between fighting one or another? They are both bad for our country. A racist judge who believes in judicial activism from the bench can do a lot of harm! The GOP needs to grow a pair … FAST!

tnmama on May 28, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Why does anyone pay attention to what the Politico writes? What does it mean to eschew “scorched earth” tactics? With forty senators? Politico is part of the democrat-media complex, when are people going to get that into their heads? Stop paying attention to what they write and how they frame events. And if the Republican senators are taking politico seriously they’re effin morons.

Should the GOP do what the Democrats did to Bork, and especially, Clarence Thomas, i.e., smear them, dig into trash cans, and dig up an Anita Hill type character? No. Should they hit her hard and question her very intensely? Point out the implications of putting her on supreme court? Stick to the issues? Yes, use all resources and orchestrate a full-blown campaign against her using conservative media and interest groups. She is highly controversial. See if it catches fire with the public. If so, dems will be peeled away. Then maybe momentum builds and Obama withdraws her.

In any case, the more controversy created around her the higher the price democrat senators have to pay to vote for her. Plus, you weaken Obama AND the chances of a health care bill passing. Especially if she is defeated. This is not complicated stuff.

We just need a few GOP senators with guts and brains. Who can do “strategery”. Which I guess we completely lack.

chris999 on May 28, 2009 at 5:10 PM

All it takes is a couple of senators asking her tough questions, doesn’t even have to be confrontational, just ask her about some of the things she has said.

“Do you believe it is the role of the court to make policy?”

“Do you believe in using international law to decide cases?”

“Do you believe the constitution is a living document?”

commodore on May 28, 2009 at 6:16 PM

Just like I was saying earlier today, comparing the Democrats to a team that went 10 for 2 and blind while playing spades

The GOP doesn’t have to take every trick to set the other guys.

Sekhmet on May 28, 2009 at 7:02 PM

What am I missing here? The dems seem to be able to put up two situations to fight simultaneously and the GOP is not capable of the same? If the GOP is so weak that they can not devise a strategy to oppose then they don’t deserve to be there. It is too bad that they are seemingly so weak and impotent.

Pardonme on May 28, 2009 at 8:22 PM

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