Even though Senate Republicans have no intention of holding hearings on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, that doesn't mean he or she won't be dragged through the mud.
And the chamber's No. 2 Republican made that clear to a small cluster of reporters Monday, saying he believed the nominee, "will bear some resemblance to a piñata."
"You know, what I don't understand is how ... somebody who actually wants to be confirmed to the Supreme Court would allow themselves to be used by the administration in political fight that's going to last now until the end of the year," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said.
"There's no guarantee certainly that after that time they're going to look as good as they did going in, and as a practical matter, there'd be no requirement on a Democratic president to appoint, re-appoint the same person."
The Texas Republican would not speculate on how the procedural maneuvering might play out in 2017, though he did say that he expected Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, would stand firm on his commitment not to hold hearings in 2016. In addition to his leadership role, Cornyn is a senior member of the Judiciary panel.
There would be a narrow window between the start of the new Congress on Jan. 3 and the end of Obama's presidency at noon Jan. 20, to push through his nominee. Such a maneuver would likely force the Senate to abandon its precedents on Supreme Court nominations and approve a new justice with a simple-majority vote. But, it's more likely that any delay beyond 2016 would push well into 2017, with a new president in office.
"I don't think the voters really are interested in seeing the ideological balance of the court changed for the next 30 years by a lame duck president," Cornyn said.
But the Texan did say he hoped the Senate would continue to process routine judicial nominations to lower courts for at least part of 2016, before a freeze on such confirmations this summer, in what Democrats generally describe as the Thurmond Rule for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Republicans prefer the moniker the Leahy Rule for current Judiciary ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.
"I think that usually starts in the summer," Cornyn said of the stoppage. "My preference for us would be to continue to process lower court judges in the usual manner."
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