Can you imagine this? In early 2017, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court takes the empty ninth seat, replacing the conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly a year earlier.
“Welcome to Justice Barak Obama,” the bailiff intones. “God save the United States and this honorable court!”
Or maybe the new member is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a galvanizing champion of liberal social and economic philosophy.
That’s one of the possible outcomes of the current showdown between President Obama and the Republican-majority Senate, whose leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has staunchly vowed the White House pick to fill the vacancy would not even be considered for confirmation until after the presidential election in November.
Most, though not all, of his GOP colleagues are united in their refusal to give Obama’s nominee the time of day, much less a serious hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
Dr. John R. Vile, dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University and distinguished scholar in U.S. Constitutional history, commented on that and alternative political scenarios brought to life by the Supreme Court showdown when he spoke to The Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday.
A professor of political science who has authored some 30 books and large catalog of research papers, Vile expands on his Rotary remarks in this week’s FOCUS program on public radio WCPI 91.3 FM. The half-hour interview airs Tuesday at 5 p.m.; Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m.; and Friday at 1:05 a.m.
President Obama chose Judge Merrick Garland of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court as his nominee to the Senate for its “advice and consent,” in other words, the final say.
Vile noted Garland represents the first of Obama’s three Supreme Court nominees to occupy “the middle of the court.” Whereas his first two appointees were clearly identified with progressive, left-leaning orientation, Garland is regarded as a centrist, known for his attitude of judicial restraint and respectful deference to the other two main branches of federal government, the executive and the legislative.
“He may be the best deal the Republicans can hope for,” Vile predicted. If the Senate refuses confirmation hearings until November, it could be faced with a different nominee from a new president.
What if the new chief executive is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? Whom would they nominate?
What if it’s Donald Trump? Given his political inexperience and volatility, whom might he pick? Only arch-conservative Ted Cruz, if elected president, offers the prospect of a dependably right-wing nominee to the high court.
The stakes, Vile told Rotarians, could not be higher as the Republican-controlled Senate has to choose now between a well-known moderate as Scalia’s replacement or future uncertainties and complications.