President Obama will announce his nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in the White House Rose Garden at 11 a.m., he said in an email to supporters Wednesday.
While Senate Republicans have said they will not consider any jurist the president nominates for the nation’s highest court, Obama sent out an email to supporters declaring he was prepared to do so. Late last week Obama had narrowed the list of potential nominees to three federal appeals judges: Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland and Paul Watford.
Both Srinivasan and Garland sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, while Watford sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Today, I will announce the person whom I believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court,” he said in the email. ” As president, it is both my constitutional duty to nominate a justice and one of the most important decisions that I — or any president — will make.”
Obama wrote that he’s “devoted a considerable amount of time and deliberation to this decision” and the White House has “reached out to every member of the Senate, who each have a responsibility to do their job and take this nomination just as seriously.”
The president said his nominee will meet his “three principles” for selecting a justice. Any justice “should possess an independent mind, unimpeachable credentials, and an unquestionable mastery of law”; should “recognize the limits of the judiciary’s role” and “a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook.”
Still, Senate Republicans have said they have no intention of holding a hearing and a vote on the president’s pick. Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa, said “the next Supreme Court justice could dramatically change the direction of the court” and Americans deserved to “weigh in” before that happens.
Grassley openly questioned Obama’s emphasis on finding justices who have “empathy” and whose decisions are informed by their personal backgrounds.
“The American people deserve the opportunity during this election year to weigh in on whether our next justice should apply the text of the Constitution, or alternatively, whether a justice should rely on his or her own ‘life experiences’ and personal sense of right and wrong to arrive at ‘just decisions and fair outcomes,'” Grassley said. “Senate Republicans will ensure the American people aren’t denied this unique and historic opportunity.”
Democrats, for their part, are preparing to make Republicans’ opposition to filling the vacancy an issue in the fall election. Speaking in West Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday night, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned in her victory speech that one of the reasons the presidential race matters is because the Supreme Court appointment has such enormous policy implications.
“Together, we have to defend all of our rights – civil rights and voting rights, worker’s rights and women’s rights, LGBT rights and rights for people with disabilities and that starts by standing with President Obama when he nominates a justice to the Supreme Court,” she said, prompting large cheers from the crowd.
“While the question of who sits on the nation’s highest court is not traditionally a top-tier election issue, Democrats are hoping to use it as part of a broader narrative about Republican resistance to the president’s policies.
David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, noted that Richard Nixon first elevated the court as an electoral issue in 1968, when he attacked then-Chief Justice Earl Warren and his fellow justices.
“It was putting a liberal-dominated court at the center of the liberal establishment he was attacking,” Greenberg said, for “bringing about all these cultural changes” in the country.
This year, Greenberg said, Democrats are hoping to leverage the impasse over the court to promote the idea, “The Republican Party is the party of nothing.”
While administration officials know the nominee faces long odds given the opposition of Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., they remain hopeful that the GOP senators who are most vulnerable this election–Sens. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., Ron Johnson, Wisc, Mark Kirk, Ill., and Pat Toomey, Penn. – may lobby their leaders for a vote if they come under fire back home for obstructionism.
“The success or failure of this will depend on the pressure that can be brought to bear on those senators who Mitch McConnell marched out to the firing line,” said one former senior administration official, who asked for anonymity in order to discuss internal White House deliberations.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Juliet Eilperin