Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is saber rattling again, warning that any Democratic Supreme Court nominee would be blocked indefinitely. It’s sure to please the conservative wing of the Republican Party and generate some nice fundraising material for the Texas senator. So, here we go with the hold the line games (via Politico):
In a vintage return to his confrontational style, Sen. Ted Cruz indicated that Republicans could seek to block a Democratic president from filling the vacant Supreme Court seat indefinitely.
After staking his endorsement of Donald Trump on a list of potential conservative Supreme Court nominees, Cruz said on Wednesday that there is precedent to limiting the Supreme Court to just eight justices. Last week, Cruz's colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), suggested the GOP should confirm President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, to avoid having to swallow a more liberal nominee under Hillary Clinton.
“There will be plenty of time for debate on that issue ... There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have," Cruz said, in remarks first reported by The Washington Post.
Yes, an eight-member court is not hamstringing the U.S. justice system. And yes, the third branch has been able to operate without nine members; at one point there were seven justices who also had larger workloads. But we’ve seen this movie before. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promised a united Republican front against Clinton’s nominees, but soon backtracked, saying he would examine the record of the nominee first.
Yes, I know McCain and Cruz are like oil and water, but there is very little chance that the GOP will take this position, no matter who is staking this hold the line claim. For starters, they’re in a pickle. They’re projected to lose anywhere from five to seven seats, they still have Merrick Garland in the wings who could still be voted on in a lame duck session should the GOP fear a Clinton nominee more, and they said that the next president should fill the vacancy citing past precedent (i.e. Biden rule).
Should the upper chamber flip decisively, the American people have voiced their opinion that the Democrats should be in the driver’s seat—and that includes Supreme Court nominations. Not good. Senate Republicans could risk the revolt from their own base by flip-flopping on Garland and holding a hearing and possibly a vote in a lame duck session to prevent what could be a psycho, anti-gun left wing nut job from Clinton should she win the election. Once the new Congress begins, there is a possibility that a Chuck Schumer-led Democratic Senate majority could tweak the filibuster rules, making things more difficult for Republicans to block nominations. We’ll see what happens, but Senate Republicans don’t look like they’re on the best ground to hold out for four years on SCOTUS.