Friday, April 9, 2010


Just a couple quick thoughts on the Stevens retirement...

1. Most of this is pretty predictable, no?  There will be 25-35 Republicans voting against pretty much whoever Obama puts up (can anyone imagine a 90-10 or 99-0 vote?  Don't think so).  There are probably over 50 Dems inclined to support whoever Obama puts up.  As for the White House, they are presumably well-prepared, and it's pretty obvious that the president prefers make-no-waves solid, mainstream liberal nominees.  As a result, liberals will be generally happy with the selection, but there will probably be grumbling that Obama failed to take the opportunity for a truly game-changing selection (which I think is a futile goal; it's impossible to predict the intersection of a potential nominee's thoughts, as guessed at by their history, with whatever issues and internal dynamics the court will have over the next couple of decades).  No doubt, the nominee will also raise questions from the left about some area of his or her jurisprudence, but not nearly enough for liberals to oppose the nomination.  On the right, there will be a search for controversial statements or views, and if none really exist they will readily be manufactured, from whole cloth if necessary.  In other words, expect a close copy of last year's nomination.

2.  It is highly unlikely that such a nominee can be defeated.  It's always possible, of course, that some scandal will emerge (by the way, I am in favor of careful vetting on these nominations -- this isn't the deputy undersecretary for widgets we're talking about), but barring that, Obama should get this one confirmed.

3.  The most interesting vote?  Scott Brown, who will now be forced to choose between being a right-wing celebrity and having any hope for reelection.  So far, he seems to be trying to straddle that line, but I can't see conservatives forgiving a yes vote here, and while one never wants to place too much emphasis on the effects of one action on voters, a no vote would be a strong indication that he doesn't intend to attempt to remain viable for reelection.  (I might as well add that if Crist does jump, I would expect LeMieux to probably vote yes; if Crist is still running in the Republican primary, then LeMieux is a certain no vote).


  1. Hate to play the devil's advocate again, but....

    What makes you so sure that Obama's nominee will be confirmed?

    If, as you predict, the right wing noise machine does what it does best--whip the base into a wild, frothing frenzy--then which GOP senator will have the courage to vote for cloture on the confirmation?

  2. This sounds about right. If worse comes to worse, I can see Obama allowing it to drag out for a bit just to paint the Republicans further into the corner before resorting to parliamentary trickery, but I don't think it'll come to that, at least not on a middle-left judge.

    The Republicans may genuinely be crazy enough these days to actually fight to block an inoffensive candidate, but I doubt they can take many more defeats like the Healthcare bill and maintain party discipline.

    Andrew: There are a few ways, baring sitting it out, to get around a filibuster, particularly when you control the reporting committee in question. Johnson's favorite tactic was to hold it in committee until its major opponents were out of town, then send it to the floor, or to pop it into the agenda right after a mundane bill while most senators are off goofing around instead of in chambers. I know Senate rules have been changed since his time, and doing something like that with a SC confirmation is unheard of, but it isn't impossible. For various reasons, I think Obama would want such a filibuster to actually be televised though, if it were to happen.


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