As debate over the nomination to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia heats up, Republicans in D.C. are looking over their shoulder at businessman Donald J. Trump, who has said they should “delay, delay, delay.”
More precisely, Republicans on Capitol Hill know that if they allow President Barack Obama to nominate an election-year replacement for Scalia, after promising not to do so, they will affirm Trump’s critique of the party: as a weak collection of careerists more interested in appeasing the mainstream media than in serving the country.
Thus far, most Republicans–including establishment Republicans–have held firm. They have an unusual weapon at their disposal: Democrats’ own past statements against Supreme Court appointments in the lame-duck years of a presidency, including a vow by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2007 to block President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees for 18 months, and a 1960 Democratic resolution against election-year appointments.
In addition, a few vulnerable Republican Senators up for re-election in 2016 have held the line against Democrats’ and the media’s pressure.
As James Arkin of RealClearPolitics notes, “Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – all representing states President Obama won in 2012 and among the incumbents most-targeted by Democrats – said the nomination should wait until 2017.”
However, Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois has not yet said which way he leans. Rival Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who evidently cares about the Constitution only for as long as it takes to misquote it, demanded he oppose Majority Leader “Mitch McConnell’s obstructionist and unconstitutional gambit” to block any nomination.
In the GOP debate in South Carolina on Saturday night, Trump said: “I think [President Obama’s] going to do it whether I’m okay with it or not. I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.”
His rivals followed suit. Even those who bemoaned how political the issue had become said the Senate should stop Obama from appointing a Supreme Court Justice in his last year in office.
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter told Breitbart News Sunday that Trump had Senate Republicans worried: “Look, if they let somebody go through, I mean, I think Trump is going to win anyway but it’s just going to get him another ten million votes.”