Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Garland Is Going to Get Confirmed By August

I'm going to take a chance here and be a smart-ass pundit predicting the future.

I'm going to predict that Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, Merrick Garland, will get his hearing before the Senate by early-mid August and be narrowly confirmed for the highest bench in the land.

I'm basing this prediction on a few observations:

The Republicans in the Senate are having a rough time keeping a united front on this issue. To the news report from NBC:

Two weeks into the nomination fight, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Garland — over 25 percent of the GOP caucus — according to a running count by NBC News.
That includes senators up for re-election in Blue States, such as New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte and Illinois' Mark Kirk, who will be the first Republican to actually meet with Garland when they talk Tuesday.

Turns out, the Republican theory that elections matter is proving correct: it's just that it's their elections to stay in office that are driving wedges into their obstruction.

The second observation is how the current Presidential election is not trending in favor to the Republicans as they would like. The GOP Senate's excuse to block and delay this opening is that "the American People should decide in this election who gets to be on the Court." The obvious intent to hold off until November, when the Republicans believe they will win the White House and have a conservative President nominate a conservative Justice for 2017.

Problem with that scenario is that Republicans are facing a Trump candidacy in November. On the one hand, Trump is trailing in the general election polls at around 36 to 38 percent support and trailing double-digits behind Hillary. On the other hand, if Trump wins there's no guarantee he will nominate a potential Justice capable of surviving a public nomination process (just think what happened to Harriet Miers: Trump can well nominate someone less experienced and more horrific).

The Republicans in the Senate have to be aware that if they obstruct Garland's nomination well into the November election, they will not only keep alive a campaign issue that can hurt their chances back in their states (a majority of Americans want Garland's nomination to get the hearing it deserves), they can well face the prospect that they will leave a vacancy on the Supreme Court to get filled by Hillary Clinton (a Democrat most Republicans despise as much as they do Obama).

They could arguably rush Garland into the nomination and get him confirmed after the November (electoral massacre) election before Hillary gets sworn in the following January, but they do run the risk of Obama pulling Garland's nomination off the table. Oh, Obama has promised he wouldn't do so, but Hillary will make the valid argument that the Senate wanted HER to make the pick since the American People elected HER to do so, and hey is Obama going to deny the American People HER right to nominate a more liberal, Left-leaning Justice?

So what's going to happen is that the Senate is likely to wait until the time is right for them to cave on this fight, and get a moderate-leaning Justice like Garland sworn in before they risk the likelihood of Hillary bringing to the Senate - and a likely Democratic-controlled Senate at that - someone more Leftist than Ginsburg.

The best time to do that is in August.

It will be well after both Party conventions have finished their nomination process and the general election campaigns have begun in earnest.

The Senate will have enough polling numbers to see how the trends point to who wins in November. If Trump is still below 40 percent approval as a candidate by early August - even against a post-convention bump - then the signs are pretty solid that the GOP is not winning the White House. They'll also have their own polling numbers to look at, and if voters are still pissed that the Senate is still obstructing...

August is a good time because the Supreme Court annual calendar starts in October. By interviewing and confirming Garland in August/early September, they can get the full bench up and running by the time the Court hears new cases.

There's also a number of state-level Congressional/Senate primaries being held in early August (I know Florida does). Any Republican Senator facing a primary challenger from the Far Right is going to want to ensure they survive that challenge. Once that's settled, they can pivot to answer the angry voters in the General election cycle still pissed about the obstruction on Garland, and end that issue by hearing him and nominating him (or if they lose to that Far Right usurper(s), the lame-duck Senator(s) can confirm Garland as a parting gift to the ungrateful bastards who voted them out).

I am predicting that Garland gets the confirmation because, again, the Republicans do not want this dragging out to where Hillary gets the vacancy filled. They would rather live with a Center-Left moderate like Garland sharing the role with Justice Kennedy than die with a Far Left liberal that Hillary will find to appease the Democratic voter base. But I will go with the floor vote going to a 50-50 tie: the Republicans will count out the vote as it happens, and have just enough of their own to cross the aisle to vote for Garland but only enough for that tie. They will view it as a humiliation to have Biden come in as Vice-President to use the tie-breaker (while the Democrats will cheer that Biden gets the honor of casting the deciding vote).

This all depends on how nasty and chaotic the summer conventions (I should say the singular, seeing how it's the Republican con in Cleveland that's at issue) are going to be, and how bad Trump's polling numbers are going to look by August (I get the feeling it'll be stuck in the 30s).

So you heard it here first, Seven Readers Of This Blog. Unless, you know, someone over at Balloon-Juice or Slate beat me to it.

Update 8/10/16: I didn't realize how late many of the congressional Primaries were going to go this month, well up to August 30th, so that actually delays this until September. So I am off by a month. I apologize.


Pinku-Sensei said...

I'm still betting on Garland being confirmed in the Lame Duck session. What I'm betting, I don't know yet.

dinthebeast said...

Not just someone more liberal (say, Goodwin Liu from the CA State Supreme Court), but someone quite a bit younger...
Not that I have anything against Garland. He seems quite serious, and even though some Republicans like him, by all accounts he's a very good judge.
Considering the sort of delusional behavior around elections one can generally expect from the Republican establishment, I'm going with a lame-duck session confirmation as well. They won't believe it until it knocks on their doors to hand them their ass on a platter...

-Doug in Oakland