Not that we have word of any openings coming up on the Supreme Court in the immediate future, but it always pays to be prepared, right? Particularly when you have several justices in their septuagenarian or even octagenarian years and one of them regularly talks about packing up his RV and touring the country. But given the politically poisonous mood currently gripping both Congress and the nation, would President Trump really want to open that can of worms and introduce a new nominee if someone suddenly retired? Oh, baby… you know he’s champing at the bit. (The Hill)
President Trump on Monday said he would make a nomination to the Supreme Court if there’s a vacancy before the 2020 presidential election.
“Would I do that? Of course,” Trump said in an exclusive interview with The Hill when asked if he would try to fill a high court vacancy during election season.
The position is an apparent reversal for the president, who as a candidate in 2016 backed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) decision to block former President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court.
Trump went on to say that he’d nominate someone if there were only three days left in the term in the hopes that he could get it pushed through. He was speaking on the record, so that is about as unambiguous as the President gets.
But would he even be able to get a nominee confirmed next year? He would need the support of the Senate leadership to do that, and after all that unpleasantness surrounding Merrick Garland, would the Senate Majority Leader push through a Trump nomination next spring or summer? Oh, that’s right… Cocaine Mitch already went on the record and said that he’d do it in a heartbeat.
When the reporter asked Trump if this was a flip-flop after supporting McConnell in the Merrick decision in 2016 he said it wasn’t. He came up with a rather vague explanation about how the Democrats didn’t have the votes to get Garland confirmed to explain that away. But let’s be honest here. Of course it’s a flip-flop. It is for McConnell also. Welcome to Washington. You press your advantage while you have it and prepare for the opposition to do the same when the shoe is on the other foot.
This is no different than the fight over ending the filibuster. The Democrats did it initially over the howls of protest of the Republicans. Then the Republicans took to the next level when they had power and the Democrats stamped their feet in anger. This has been going on for ages. And I can assure you, if this was Hillary Clinton potentially facing a tough reelection in 2020 and an opening came up on the court, the Democrats would move Heaven and Earth to get her nominee confirmed in an election year.
Of course, all of this is entirely moot unless there’s an opening. If Clarence Thomas was going to retire I would have expected him to do it this summer, not next year. At this point, I think he’s just counting on Trump winning a second term.