Supreme Court Facts and Speculation

Facts: Wikipedia article on Supreme Court Nominations gives the number of days for a nomination to be approved, withdrawn, or rejected.  The longest was 114 days to reject Robert Bork, payback for his role in the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Prediction Market “Will the Senate confirm the next SCOTUS nominee before Obama leaves office?” says 30% likely to confirm, 70% to not.

Prediction market: who will Obama nominate?

Sri Srinivasan 39%
Loretta Lynch 19%
Jane Louise Kelly 14%

Speculation:

The prediction markets favor the next president being a Democrat. They also give the Dems a roughly 50-50 chance of taking the Senate (51/49 Republicans, right now).

Republican obstruction of a moderate Obama nominee will result in a more liberal nominee — if the Republicans keep the Senate — and as liberal a confirmed justice as you can imagine if the Republicans lose it. So while Republican rhetoric can say one thing, Republican political calculations are likely to lead to a different outcome.

This whole dust-up might make a difference in who wins the White House, but there’s a better chance that it could affect the Senate make-up.

So doing the math,  if Obama nominates Srinivasan he is likely to be confirmed. It costs the Republicans little to do this — after dragging their heels suitably to satisfy their base.  He’s moderate — even conservative, which is why he was confirmed for his current post. It’s a pretty good deal for the Republicans.

To take the Senate, the Dems need to get four seats in the battleground states:

  • New Hampshire
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Colorado
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Florida
  • Arizona

If Srinivasan is nominated, I’d expect the nativist wing of the Republican party to go batshit.  What kind of a name is Srinivasan? He’s not a real American! He’s a Muslim. No, he’s a Hindu. Well, we don’t care which kind of Muslim he is, he’s still a Muslim. And where’s his birth certificate? He’s not even native born. Well, that’s not a requirement for Supreme Court justice. Well, it should be! And so on.

Meanwhile just enough moderate Republicans would say: “Well, we disagree with the President’s choice, but he does have the credentials, and it’s our responsibility to keep the government working, so we’ll reluctantly, very reluctantly, in the spirit of bipartisanship, vote to confirm the guy who is the best thing we’re likely to see.”

Of course if Obama wants to choose a person who will give the Republicans a lot of trouble, not the person who is most likely to be confirmed, he might pick Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar currently associate justice of the California Supreme Court. The Daily Beast describes him as “The GOP’s worst SCOTUS nightmare.” He’s liberal, which means he’ll side against them. He’s young, which means he’ll be around for a long time. He was confirmed to the California Supreme court by a unanimous bipartisan vote. He was given the highest rating by the California bar association. His wife is an Asian, Lucy Koh, a US district judge, confirmed unanimously by the Senate. So there’s another demographic to lose.

He is, like Srinivasan, a naturalized citizen, but the nativist reaction against Cuéllar carries a greater penalty than one against Srinivasan. There is no Indian voting bloc to be lost by trashing Srinivasan, but there is a Latino bloc to be lost trashing Cuéllar. That might help Hillary and might turn the tide in Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. And I think that the the open-minded independents of the other battleground states are likely to be more offended by the Republicans trashing a Mexican with impeccable credentials than by their trashing an Indian with comparably good credentials.

Cuéllar is not even listed on the prediction market, so I hope that I’m being way too cynical.

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