GOP seeks to scare off Obama high court pick

GOP seeks  to scare off Obama high court pick
© Greg Nash

Republicans are promising that anyone nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama is in for a rough ride.

Senate GOP Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (Texas) warns a nominee will be a “piñata,” while third-ranking Senate Republican John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThere is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  MORE (S.D.) promises a “process without an end.”

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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Ariz.) says he has “no clue” why anyone would want to subject themselves and their family to the intense scrutiny of a Supreme Court confirmation process under such conditions.

“I notice the governor of Nevada quickly removed himself from consideration, showing there are no dummies in Las Vegas. They know the odds,” he said.

The saber-rattling by the GOP senators is intended to scare off would-be nominees such as Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who was floated as a possible nominee last month.

The White House is vetting a number of candidates and at any time could offer a nomination to replace the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, whose unexpected death has created a pivotal court vacancy.

The importance of the nomination — and the Senate GOP’s preemptive blockade — has both sides fomenting political arguments with an eye on November, when the White House and Senate majority will be up for grabs.

Democrats are trying their best to cast Republicans as obstructionists who should be blamed for Washington’s dysfunction.

They have highlighted the GOP’s refusal to even meet with a prospective Obama nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits MORE (Nev.) and other Democrats pounced Tuesday on Cornyn’s “piñata” remark.

“They don’t know anything about the person, but they already have in their mind they are going to beat this person like a piñata,” Reid said from the Senate floor. “He’s saying Republicans are going to do all they can to hurt this person’s reputation, to beat on him like a piñata.”

Cornyn quickly fired back, saying he wouldn’t “be preached to” by Reid or other Democrats, citing their 2013 decision to trigger the “nuclear” option that allowed many judicial nominees to clear the Senate by a simple majority. 

“I would be surprised if any person who actually aspired to be on the United States Supreme Court ... would allow themselves to be used by this administration,” he added. “There’s no guarantee that that same person will be renominated.”

Republicans have repeatedly argued that it would be better for the next president to decide the Supreme Court replacement, using 1992 comments from then-Sen. Joe BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE (D-Del.) to back up their arguments.

Obama is expected to offer a nominee Republicans would have a hard time rejecting.

Two leading candidates, Sri Srinivasan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Jane Louise Kelly of the 8th Circuit, won Senate confirmation with unanimous votes in 2013.

It’s not clear whether the tough talk from Republicans will make it harder for Obama to find a prospective nominee to serve on the high court for a possible lifetime appointment.

Republicans point out that Sandoval withdrew his name from consideration, but it’s hard to say how seriously the White House was considering the nomination of a Republican.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for the Senate, said publicly last month that she has no interest in being considered, while Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whom members of the Congressional Black Caucus have championed, formally asked the White House not to consider her for the job on Tuesday.

Both Harris and Lynch, however, are political appointees who would seem easier targets for a blockade than a nominee such as Kelly or Srinivasan.

Republicans say that even if a Democrat wins the White House this fall, a nominee from Obama could be political poison next year.

“I don’t know that would really be a benefit to that person going forward in the future,” said Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Postal Service expansion into banking services misguided Arkansas governor backs Sarah Huckabee Sanders to replace him MORE (R-Ark.).

Thune was also pessimistic.

“Someone who wants to put themselves through a process that has no end, I don’t know how that helps you in the long term if your goal ultimately is to get nominated and get considered in a new administration,” said Thune.

Conservative groups are pledging to dig through the nominee’s background and record in search of political ammunition to combat the Obama administration’s effort to portray the nominee as a reasonable jurist who deserves a fair review.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a right-leaning advocacy group committed to limited government, has hired a firm specializing in opposition research to shed light on the nominee’s past.

“The president is going to roll the nominee and spin them as the best thing since sliced bread,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network.

“Our job is to make sure there are some facts to check that spin. We hired one of the leading conservative research firms, America Rising, and they’re doing a lot of background research to get ahead of the eight ball by looking at people discussed on the shortlist so far,” she said.

The group has also assembled a team of lawyers with Supreme Court and appellate court expertise to review decisions and records.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said she worried the fight might take a serious personal toll on the nominee.

“I think there’s very real damage ­done,” she said.