As part of their unprecedented obstructionism, Senate Republicans are not only blocking Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, but they’re refusing to confirm what used to be routine nominations for federal district judges.
Back in March, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia, he hoped that Senate Republicans would at least hold hearings on his highly-qualified nominee. After all, Republicans strongly backed Garland’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit court of Appeals in 1996.
No such luck. Republicans not only have refused to confirm, they won’t even hold nomination hearings, claiming an absurd precedent that the president isn’t supposed to appoint a Justice in an election year.
GOP foot-dragging on Garland has set a new record for the interval between a SCOTUS nomination and hearings, and voters have noticed: A majority are less likely to vote for Republican senators who block nomination hearings.
But here’s the other story. This Republican-led Senate is also obstructing what used to be the routine nominations of other federal judges.
“Judicial emergency” is a formal designation assigned by court administrators for vacancies where the judicial caseloads are so high that they prevent the timely hearings required by law.
At the start of the new congress, there were 12 judicial emergencies. Now there are 28.
Marge Baker, the executive vice president at People for the American Way, told the Daily Beast she blames Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Judiciary Committee.
“Sen. [Patrick] Leahy [D-VT] worked hard in the last two years of Bush’s presidency to continue processing nominees,” she said. “Grassley is not. He is not just the judiciary chair for the Republican Party—he’s the judiciary chair for the whole country.”
Grassley is feeling the heat. His favorability ratings have taken a dive in Iowa, with Hart Research showing that one in five voters who would otherwise support him could be persuaded to vote against him because of his Supreme Court stance.
You’d think Republicans would learn that putting politics over country only works for so long before voters get angry, but they don’t.