Small business lobby to vet Supreme Court nominee

Cameron Lancaster

The nation’s small business lobby is entering the battle over filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced plans Wednesday to, for the first time in the group’s 73-year history, thoroughly analyze the record of a Supreme Court pick. Obama's nominee is Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Juanita Duggan, president and CEO of the conservative business group, said before Garland’s pick was announced that the next justice could determine the outcome of several cases in which NFIB is a plaintiff that could radically expand the federal government’s control over the economy.

“The stakes are far too high for small businesses to watch this process from the sidelines,” she said in a statement.

The NFIB is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s contentious Waters of the U.S. rule, which expands the federal government’s authority over local bodies of waters, as well as the agency's Clean Power Plan, which forces states to phase out the use of coal as a source of energy.

The group is also expecting a case challenging the National Labor Relation Board’s “ambush election” rule to make it’s way to the high court. Business groups argue the rule gives organized labor an unfair advantage over employers.

As a result, the NFIB is planning to carefully vet Obama’s nominee. Duggan said the candidate’s judicial record will be reviewed for decisions in past cases involving regulations that bear enormous costs to small businesses, as well as the candidate’s public statements on business, labor issues, property rights or other topic that indicates his or her disposition.

After Obama announced his nomination of Garland Wednesday morning, the NFIB called its initial review of the judge's record “very discouraging.” 

“A cursory examination of his record points to a judge who nearly always sides with regulators, labor unions and trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses,” Duggan said in a statement.

She later added that, “small business has been under heavy pressure from the EPA, the DOL, the NLRB, and the rest of the alphabet soup of regulators that have expanded their power over the private sector.”

“Judge Garland has an extensive record and based on our initial examination we have grave concerns,” she said.  

NFIB has vowed to be heavily engaged in the nomination process.

“This administration has pushed the boundaries of executive power over private enterprise and increasingly the Supreme Court is where these fights are decided,” Duggan said. “We can’t sit this one out.