Obama Dominates the Court of Public Opinion as Americans Tell GOP: #DoYourJob

Obama Dominates the Court of Public Opinion as Americans Tell GOP: #DoYourJob

Today, a poll is out confirming the Republicans' nightmare when it comes to President Obama's nominee on the Supreme Court. Now that there is an actual nominee, nearly 8 in 10 Americans, including 6 in 10 Republicans, believe that the GOP is playing politics with the Supreme Court. Seven in 10 Americans want a hearing, including 56% of Republicans.

Even worse for the Republican leadership, fewer than 2 in 10 Americans are buying their excuse that they merely want to allow the American people to speak before the next Justice is seated on the Court. Reflecting growing public pressure, the nation's mayors have written to the Senate challenging them to do their job.

Well, Mitch, it appears that the American people are speaking. Are you listening?

At least one Republican senator is. Illinois Republican Mark Kirk became the first Republican senator last week to call on his party to give the President's nominee a vote. Several others GOP senators have agreed to meet with Judge Garland.

As if all of that weren't bad enough, The New York Times reported today that in an uncanny and prescient interview a mere 10 days before Justice Scalia's death, the Republicans' excuse not to do their jobs was undermined by none other than conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

In 1986, Justice Scalia was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0. In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3.

These days, Chief Justice Roberts said, “the process is not functioning very well.”

The last three justices should have sailed through, too, he said. He was referring to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., appointed by President George W. Bush, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, appointed by Mr. Obama. Forty-two senators voted against Justice Alito, 31 against Justice Sotomayor and 37 against Justice Kagan.

“Look at my more recent colleagues, all extremely well qualified for the court,” Chief Justice Roberts said, “and the votes were, I think, strictly on party lines for the last three of them, or close to it, and that doesn’t make any sense. That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees.”

As the Times pointed out, for anyone who sees Alito, Kagan and Sotomayor as well qualified, it is hard to imagine any other characterization for Judge Garland.

Note the president's critical success here. Because of the unassailable record of Judge Garland, no Senators, not even Republicans, have been able to make any substantive case against him. In fact, many of them have been on record praising Judge Garland's qualifications in the past.

So instead, they have been left to make the case on process alone. A process case they cannot win. There is no Constitutional ambiguity on the process, and any attempt to make the case that the President may be afforded his Constitutional prerogative only through certain parts of his term was always destined to fail. Senate Democrats and the president are now so successfully making that case that the popularity of the Republican position on Judge Garland's nomination now hovers around the toxic popularity levels of Dick Cheney.

Here's where the hammer drop becomes even more painful for Republicans: This poll comes just a month after the first polling on the issue a month ago, in which Americans were split evenly on whether President Obama should nominate Scalia's successor. In other words, Republicans have gone from roughly half of Americans buying their case to fewer than 1 in 6 in the time of a mere month.

Now, vulnerable Republican Senators are going to have a choice. They can hang with the losing party-line that just 16% of Americans are buying, or they can side with reason, break with their party and give the President's nominee a full hearing and an up-or-down vote. That will not be easy, and it will involve openly embarrassing their own leadership. But if there's one thing Senators like more than their leadership, it's their seats.



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