White House SCOTUS Head-Fake Fails: Sandoval Out

AP/Nati Harnick
Washington, DC

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s attempt this week to distract Republican senators from their decision to let the American people decide the future course of the Supreme Court has failed, as the trial balloon he floated on nominating a moderate Republican fell flat.

Although Obama as a senator attempted to deny a vote to a Republican Supreme Court nominee in 2006 (Samuel Alito), he now insists that the Constitution requires senators to vote on his nominees.

Republican senators rejected this argument, saying that the American people need to decide what sort of Supreme Court they want and tell Washington through the ballots they cast for president and Senate in November. As a consequence, the Senate Judiciary Committee will not hold any hearings on any nominee, and the full Senate will not vote on any nomination.

In what many conservative strategists believed was a tactic to bait Republican senators, the White House floated a trial balloon by leaking the name of Brian Sandoval as a potential nominee. Sandoval is the Republican governor of Nevada, and before that was a federal district court judge (which is the trial court, the lowest level of the federal judiciary).

Republicans responded that it makes no difference whom Obama nominates, because the voters in 2014 gave America two years of divided government. Therefore, senators are saying, the American people need to have a thorough conversation on what sort of Supreme Court they want, and tell Washington in November which way to go. Only then will the Senate act.

Nor did Sandoval make sense for either party. He is pro-Obamacare, pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, and pro-amnesty, so conservatives would not support his philosophy. On the other hand, he’s not a doctrinaire liberal, as seen by Hillary Clinton announcing her opposition to Sandoval. So liberals would not support him, either.

Beyond that, many legal experts in Washington do not regard Sandoval as possessing the intellect or capacity to be on the Supreme Court. “This guy is a lightweight,” said Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Scalia. “He’s not remotely qualified to fill any seat, much less Justice Scalia’s.”

Evidently Sandoval is not interested in what would be a grueling ordeal with very low odds of success. He has publicly announced that he is not interested in being nominated to the Supreme Court.

But strategists in Washington contend that Sandoval was never going to be nominated. Sources tell Breitbart News they are convinced that the White House wanted to engage Republicans in a discussion over qualifications and credentials and seek to peel off a few senators who might push for a vote.

There is no indication that Senate Republicans are wavering in their stance of leaving this matter to the voters, however.

Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.