President Barack Obama announced his Supreme Court nominee on Wednesday afternoon, introducing federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as "a serious man and an exemplary judge." The moderate judge's name came up repeatedly in past in discussions about Supreme Court vacancies, with support from both Democrats and Republicans, Obama said. Now the question is, when will the Senate vote to confirm Garland? Probably not anytime soon.
Although Obama closed his speech by saying "I hope that our Senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block any Obama nominee, claiming that it's "about a principle, not a person," then segued into calling Obama names, according to NPR. The White House pointed out that "one-third of all previous U.S. presidents have had a nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court in an election year," and that the Senate hasn't refused to vote on a president's Supreme Court nominee since 1875.
McConnell said, "The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be," according to NPR. Yet another reason to hope that Donald Trump doesn't somehow become the president, or else the Senate will probably be voting on the qualifications of one of his business partners — or a woman he finds attractive.
McConnell said that his reason for blocking Obama's nomination is that, "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," implying that the president that the American people elected in 2008 and again in 2012 somehow doesn't speak for us, while presumably Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. John Kasich would, which... no. Not a valid argument. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid rebuked McConnell's statement, the Washington Post reported in February, saying that, "Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities."
In the past, the Thurmond Rule (an obscure tradition that's actually not a rule at all), has seen the Senate stop considering judicial nominations the summer before a presidential election, but leaving a seat on the Supreme Court vacant for a whole year is unprecedented. The tradition started with Sen. Strom Thurmond, who in 1968 opposed President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Justice Abe Fortas as chief justice. Johnson's term was almost over, and Thurmond's party had a good chance of winning, so he took his ball and went home, starting a custom that's still practiced by senators with a bone to pick to this day.
The Republican-led Senate has no interest in cooperating with the Obama administration, so it looks like they won't be voting on Garland while Obama's still in office. And if they did eventually confirm Garland under another administration, it would only serve to underline how petty they were to refuse to vote now. The way things are going, it doesn't look very good for Garland. He may just end up a pawn in this bipartisan war that shows no signs of stopping.