Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bracing for a Fight

As one might expect, interest groups are gearing up for battle over the Sotomayor nomination.

But wait, should one really expect that? It's true that Supreme Court nominations often produce big battles. But this one should produce only a little battle. It's a simple question of numbers.

The Clarence Thomas nomination was a big battle. But Thomas was appointed by a Republican President at a time when the Senate had 56 Democrats. The Democrats had a reasonable prospect of blocking the nomination. Hence, a big battle was to be expected.

The recent Roberts and Alito nominations show what happens when the numbers are different. They were appointed by a Republican President when the Republicans held 55 seats in the Senate. There wasn't that much the Democrats could do to block the nomination. A filibuster was theoretically possible, but it's tough to filibuster a Supreme Court nomination in the full glare of the national spolight. So the battle wasn't nearly as big.

Now a Democratic President has nominated Judge Sotomayor when the Democrats have 59 seats in the Senate -- possibly 60 if Al Franken gets in before the nomination is considered. Realistically speaking, this nomination is going through. The interest groups will rattle their sabres, play to their bases, and raise lots of money, but there's just not that much they can do. And that's before you even consider the Republican fear of taking on the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee. I expect a small battle, not a big one.

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