Dems to Obama: Pick a nominee GOP can’t refuse

Dems to Obama: Pick a nominee GOP can’t refuse

Senate Democrats have some advice for President Obama when it comes to picking a nominee for the Supreme Court: Choose someone who Republicans will have a hard time opposing.

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampKoch-backed group launches six-figure ad buy against Heitkamp Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support MORE (D-N.D.) said Obama should nominate someone “who has already received a lot of consensus votes.”

“It should be somebody who’s demonstrated that they have great bipartisan support. That’s the easiest way to get this done,” said Heitkamp, who is likely to face a tough reelection bid in 2018.

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success Protecting American innovation MORE (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Obama should pick “someone who is eminently qualified, has previously been confirmed, and is a consensus candidate.”

The White House and Senate Democrats are salivating at the prospect of using a year-long battle over the court as a cudgel against Senate Republicans

The Senate GOP has decided it will not grant Obama’s nominee a hearing or a vote, no matter who it is. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee Spending bill delay raises risk of partial government shutdown support GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (R-Ky.) says he won’t even meet with an Obama nominee, arguing there’s no point since the next president should decide who replaces Justice Antonin Scalia.

Democrats think McConnell’s decision will come back to haunt them if they can convince voters that the Senate GOP is shirking its responsibilities.

They intend to make Republican senators uncomfortable if they refuse to meet or hold a hearing for a nominee the public sees as qualified and capable.

Wednesday’s leak of GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval as a potential nominee was an early sign of the Democratic strategy. It’s unclear how seriously Sandoval was being considered, but the message from the leak was to question whether Republicans would block a hearing for a respected governor from their own party. Sandoval pulled his name from consideration on Thursday.

Democrats say Obama should pick a nominee who has been confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate in recent years.

They mention Jane Louise Kelly of the Eighth Circuit, who was confirmed 96-0 in 2013, and Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit, who sailed through in a 97-0 vote the same year, as examples.

Such a nominee would put pressure on Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans who have long prided themselves as honest brokers, such as Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone GOP leaders back second special counsel MORE (Iowa) and Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNew kid on the tech block Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown MORE (Utah).

“We don’t want to nominate anyone who’s going to be pilloried as a liberal Robert Bork,” said a senior Democratic aide, who argued that politics around the court vacancy are so favorable that Democrats will be in good shape by following a simple guideline: “Do no harm.”

Scalia’s replacement on the court is a pivotal one.

Four of the court’s remaining justices are considered liberals, while four are conservatives. That makes the next justice a potential tie-breaker.

It’s one reason why McConnell immediately drew a hard line, deciding it was better to shutdown any debate than to let the prospect of hearings linger.

Republicans are also armed with the comments for Vice President Biden, who as a senator in June 1992 said no hearings or votes should be held on a Supreme Court nominee made by President George H.W. Bush. (There were no vacancies on the court at the time.)

Democrats believe they’re already scoring points on vulnerable incumbents such as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

A recent survey released by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, showed that 57 percent of voters in Pennsylvania believe the vacancy created by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia should be filled this year.

Democrats hope to drive up the negative ratings of vulnerable Republicans such as Toomey by emphasizing their refusal to even consider Obama’s nominee.

They say that message will be heightened if Republicans block a pick they embraced only a few years ago.