MADISONVILLE, KY — If conservative Justice Antonin Scalia retires next year, and Republicans control the Senate, the man who thinks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is too liberal to remain a senator believes that President Obama should be allowed to replace Scalia. The idea that Republicans should simply hold the seat open until Obama leaves office is “crazy,” according to McConnell’s Tea Party primary challenger Matt Bevin. “Blocking just for the sake of partisan blocking,” Bevin told ThinkProgress at a campaign event in Madisonville, Kentucky, “is a bad idea.”
To be sure, Bevin did hedge somewhat by saying that nominees should be screened to ensure that they “follow the precedent of law” and that they “have a strong track record of supporting the Constitution of the United States.” In light of the rather extravagant theories of the Constitution that Tea Party politicians have offered in recent years, it is possible that Bevin would try to block any nominee that doesn’t share a vision of the Constitution that President Obama would deem completely unacceptable. Nevertheless, Bevin did say that Republicans should not categorically refuse to confirm Obama’s Supreme Court nominees solely because they come from President Obama.
If Bevin honors that view, that could place him well to the left of many of the Republican senators he hopes to join next year. The last Supreme Court vacancy occurred in 2010, when President Obama nominated then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Kagan, and three of those senators are no longer in the Senate. In 2013, Senate Republicans refused to allow anyone that Obama nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — the second most powerful court in the country — to be confirmed. Senate Democrats eventually lifted this blockade by invoking the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminating the GOP’s ability to block nominees who do not enjoy supermajority support in the Senate.