Should the Senate Give in and Confirm Garland?
Political calculations for a Trump nomination.
Now that Donald Trump has essentially secured the Republican nomination for president, conservatives have a lot of soul searching to do, and a lot of questions to answer. Not the least of which is, what should the Senate do about Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland?
Senate Republicans and Barack Obama have already traded shots across the bow over Garland, who Obama nominated to replace Antonin Scalia. But Trump’s new position as the Republican standard bearer in November adds a new dimension to the debate over just what the GOP should do with Garland.
Initially, Republicans wanted to sit on Garland until after Obama leaves office. (We’ve argued this is the right approach.) GOP senators wanted to exploit Obama’s lame duck status and hope for a better outcome in November that could put a Republican in the White House. But some now believe that there is no better outcome to be had in November.
For this reason, there are calls for the Senate to confirm Garland now. The argument is that there is no way in the world that Trump will beat Hillary Clinton in the general election — though we’ve warned against such underestimation. Furthermore, Trump may inadvertently end up handing the Senate over to the Democrats by alienating conservative voters who’d rather stay home than pull the lever for him. (Republicans are defending 24 seats this fall, while Democrats must keep only 10.)
This line of thinking also embraces the idea that if Garland is not confirmed now, the vacancy opens the door for a President Hillary Clinton to pull him and nominate an even more openly leftist jurist who could easily pass a Democrat-controlled Senate.
Setting aside the debate over whether Trump can beat Clinton and his impact on down-ticket races, the better option is to continue to wait on Garland.
The GOP Senate caving to confirm Garland would be just one more piece of evidence for angry voters that the Republican leadership is weak — or worse, in the tank for Obama. Confirming Garland would virtually guarantee that voters who aren’t thrilled with Trump would sit out the November elections, and that would hand the White House and the Senate over to the Democrats for sure.
It is unlikely that Obama would pull Garland and replace him with a nominee further to the Left. He can’t even get a vote on this nominee. He’s made his point to the already-converted about the so-called obstructionist Senate. Any additional move at this point could be seen as Obama needlessly stoking the flames, which might put him and Clinton at a disadvantage.
Conservatives dislike Trump because he doesn’t share our values. One thing he can do to ease concerns, though, is to make public a list of the types of judges he’d nominate to the Supreme Court and to the federal bench. If Trump can demonstrate an ability to work with the GOP to put constitutional conservatives on the bench, it could shed some light on what should be done with Garland, and it could also shore up some support for the Republican nominee in November.
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