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Obama Reportedly Settles On A Supreme Court Nominee

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Cristian Farias
ATHENA IMAGE © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Following weeks of political wrangling, President Barack Obama is reportedly closer than ever to settling on a nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The president is expected to reveal his choice as early as Wednesday, according to Reuters. But that announcement will likely be only the initial foray in what looks to be a protracted battle for control of the nation's highest court.

Sources told Reuters that Obama's decision has come down to Sri Srinivasan and Merrick Garland, two federal judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. All the names said to be on the president's short list are federal judges who have previously been confirmed by the Senate. They're jurists from different walks of life with impressive legal credentials who yet lack the kind of hard-and-fast judicial ideology that could embolden Republican opposition in the Senate.

Another thing that Obama's candidates share is connections to and prior praise from Republican lawmakers, which may make it difficult for a GOP-controlled Senate to reject them outright without suffering some embarrassment.

None of these details seem to matter to Republicans so far. The Senate GOP leadership has hunkered down in its commitment to refuse a hearing to any Supreme Court nominee from Obama, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) promising fireworks around the issue.

Within moments of the news of Scalia's death, Republican lawmakers -- including Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) -- floated the notion that the president should be deprived of the chance to nominate the justice's replacement.

"We don't think the American people should be robbed of this unique opportunity" to have a voice in choosing Scalia's successor, wrote Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a joint Washington Post op-ed. They argued that the next president, who they obviously hope will be a Republican, should get to pick.

Republican senators have gone on the record as unwilling to even meet with an Obama nominee, no matter who that person is.

"Because our decision is based on constitutional principle and born of a necessity to protect the will of the American people, this Committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next President is sworn in on January 20, 2017," reads a letter signed by all the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats have responded with their own outrage machine, aimed at shaming Senate Republicans into doing their jobs and providing the "advice and consent" that the Constitution demands of them.

To be sure, neither side has that great a constitutional argument. Every breathless appeal to the founding document has been overblown, ignoring that the process was designed to be political.

In that partisan spirit, there has been mudslinging and organizing. Competing blog posts from Obama and Grassley. More op-eds from senators who actually clerkedat the Supreme Court. A special website created by the White House. Major advertising campaigns. Yet another op-ed from Vice President Joe Biden, himself a veteran of election-year nomination fights.

There was even a polite but mostly useless political summit at the White House. "They think they are going to wait and see what President Trump will do, I guess, as far as the nomination is concerned," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) afterward.

And yes, American voters have made their voices heard. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released March 9 found that a majority disagreed with Republican obstructionism around Obama's nominee.

It may be those voices -- and not any other tactic -- that will be the deciding factor in the supreme battle ahead.

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