Editor’s Note: Ian Millhiser is joining ThinkProgress to blog on issues relating to the Supreme Court nomination (read his bio here). This is his first post.
When Justice David Souter announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, President Obama saw an opportunity to appoint an outstanding jurist who will shape the Court for a generation. But right-wing interest groups saw dollar signs:
[W]ord that Justice David H. Souter plans to retire at the end of this session sent a jolt through the right-wing fundraising circuit late Thursday night.
“This is a nuclear weapon for the conservatives out there,” said Dan Morgan, a veteran conservative fundraiser who founded Morgan, Meredith and Associates. “When you do fundraising, there’s an emotional component in this and boy the emotion is there magnified times 100.”
So it should come as no surprise that these interest groups were already demanding that conservative senators obstruct the President’s choice before he announced his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. One right-wing group had been running web-ads against three of the front-runners for the nomination. Another was threatening to run ads targeting GOP senators who fail to obstruct the President’s nominee.
Speaking to Politico, Gary Bauer of the anti-choice, anti-gay group American Values urged Senate Republicans to follow their House counterparts’ “Party of No” strategy:
“Republicans in the House have gone a long way [toward satisfying conservatives] with votes on the stimulus. … But when it comes to the Senate, there are still a lot of people not convinced that … what people expect is for them to carry the banner of our philosophy as boldly and with as much confidence as the other side does.”
“The other side does not agonize about whether they are going to give a Republican Supreme Court nominee a difficult time, they just do it.”
But it is not entirely clear that senators are buying what the conservative base is selling. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, recently announced that he would not filibuster a judicial nominee except in “extraordinary circumstances”— the same standard which prevented Democrats from filibustering a George W. Bush nominee who believes that minimum wage, maximum hour, and child labor laws are unconstitutional. Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expressed similar sentiments, telling The Hill that “Republicans have never filibustered a Supreme Court nominee, and I don’t think we’re going to start now.”
In 1998, Hatch voted for Sotomayor’s confirmation to the 2nd Circuit. We’ll see then whether Hatch keeps his promise to avoid obstructionism, or whether conservative senators cave to right-wing interest groups’ hunger for a fundraising bonanza.