Weekly Address: President Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President discussed his decision to nominate Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States. Chief Judge Garland has earned the respect of both Democrats and Republicans through his years of public service. The President made clear that even though we are in the midst of a volatile political season, we should treat the appointment of a Supreme Court justice seriously. The President repeated his call for Republicans in the United States Senate to give Chief Judge Garland a fair hearing and a vote. The President did his job. Now Senators should do theirs and quickly move to consider the President’s nominee.

Transcript: Weekly Address: President Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address, The White House, ​March 19, 2016

Hi, everybody. One of the most consequential responsibilities our Constitution grants a President is appointing a Supreme Court Justice. The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court safeguard our rights. They ensure that ours is a system of laws, not of men. And they’re given the essential task of applying the principles written into our founding documents to the most challenging questions of today.

So this is a duty I take very seriously. It requires me to set aside short-term politics in order to maintain faith with our founders. And on Wednesday, after weeks of consultations with Republicans, Democrats, and leaders across the country, I selected a nominee whose unmatched experience and integrity have earned him the respect and admiration of both parties – Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

Judge Garland grew up in my hometown of Chicago, with parents who taught him to work hard and deal fairly. As a young lawyer, he left a lucrative private firm to work for half as much in public service. Eventually, he oversaw the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing, working side-by-side with first responders, victims, and their families to bring justice for an unspeakable crime. And everywhere he went during that investigation, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims’ names inside.

For the last 19 years, Judge Garland has served on what’s known as “the second highest court in the land” – the D.C. Circuit Court – including the last three years as Chief Judge. On the bench, he’s shown a dedication to protecting our basic rights. A conviction that powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out those of everyday Americans. An understanding that justice isn’t simply abstract legal theory; it affects people’s daily lives. And a spirit of decency, modesty, and even-handedness in his work. Judge Garland is admired for his courtesy, his devotion to family, and his civic-mindedness – for the past 18 years, he’s served as a tutor for young students at a local D.C. elementary school.

During my time as President, through three separate Supreme Court appointments, in conversations with Republicans and Democrats alike, one name came up more than any other – Merrick Garland.

I understand that we’re in the middle of an especially noisy and volatile political season. But at a time when our politics are so polarized; when norms and customs of our political rhetoric seem to be corroding – this is precisely the time we should treat the appointment of a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness it deserves. Because our Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics, not an extension of politics. And it should stay that way.

So I ask Republicans in the Senate to give Judge Garland the respect he has earned. Give him a hearing. Give him an up-or-down vote. To deny it would be an abdication of the Senate’s Constitutional duty. It would indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair. It would make it increasingly impossible for any President, Republican or Democrat, to carry out their Constitutional function. To go down that path would jeopardize our system of justice, it would hurt our democracy, and betray the vision of our founding.

I fulfilled my Constitutional duty. Now it’s time for Senators to do theirs. I hope that they take the time to reflect on the importance of this process to our country. I hope that they’ll act fairly. And I hope they’ll work in a bipartisan fashion to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. That’s how we can uphold our pledge to liberty and justice for all – for our time and for generations to come.

Thanks everybody. Have a good weekend.

Bolding added.


Motley Moose coverage of the nomination and reaction can be found here:
President Obama announces his Supreme Court nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit



  1. President Obama:

    … at a time when our politics are so polarized; when norms and customs of our political rhetoric seem to be corroding – this is precisely the time we should treat the appointment of a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness it deserves. Because our Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics, not an extension of politics. And it should stay that way.

  2. Sen. Charles Grassley’s obstructionism is not much appreciated in Iowa:

    Republican Joy Corning and Democrat Sally Pederson, both former Iowa lieutenant governors, are teaming up to try to convince Grassley to hold hearings for Obama’s court pick, Merrick Garland. They held a Thursday press event in Des Moines to remind him of his roots.

    “You voted in favor of Iowa’s constitutional amendment that took campaign politics out of Iowa’s judicial system,” said Corning, citing a 2014 interview in which Grassley boasted about voting as a state lawmaker to prevent political parties from nominating judges. “You express great pride in that vote, and I quote, ‘It was a very forward-looking thing to do what we did 50 years ago.’”

    That’s a sharp contrast to what’s happening today, she said.

    “Throughout your career, Chuck, you have been a fair-minded, common-sense consensus builder,” the former GOP official continued. “Refusing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy is none of those things.”

    Pederson said Grassley has a unique opportunity to break the standoff on Capitol Hill and use his leadership position to move the process forward.

    “The senator’s opposition [to hearings] is troubling,” she said. “Moreover, this is not the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew.” […]

    The two women are leading a group, Justice Not Politics, to further their cause. Their nonpartisan coalition represents tens of thousands of Iowans who think courts should be free of political and financial influence.

    He also now has a formidable opponent in the fall election who has state-wide name recognition, in fact whose very name, Patty Judge, will remind voters of Grassley’s blatantly partisan rejection of his constitutional duty.

  3. The battle is joined:

    Conservative activists … vowed to fight in support of Republican leaders who insist that the next president, to be elected on Nov. 8 and take office in January, make the appointment, hoping their party’s candidate wins.

    The conservative group Judicial Crisis Network said it would start a $2 million, three-week television, radio and digital advertising campaign in six states starting on Monday backing McConnell’s stance.

    Garland, 63, would replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13, on the nine-seat court. His appointment could tip the court leftward for the first time in decades.

    Liberal groups, including CREDO Action and MoveOn.org Civic Action, said they would rally at various locations on Monday calling on Senate Republicans to “Do Your Job” and put Garland through a full confirmation process. […]

    One senior Senate Republican aide, referring to pressures Grassley faces over the recess, speculated on the possibility he would return to Washington on April 4 more open to holding confirmation hearings. “Two weeks in Iowa with Iowans screaming at him?” the aide said.

  4. In the News: Go home librul, and take yer librul idears with you!!!

    A lawmaker responded to an email from a Gulfport woman saying he ‘could care less’ about her concerns and suggested she move out of Mississippi.

    When Becky Guidry of Gulfport emailed freshman Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, expressing her concerns about the tax breaks being considered by the Legislature, she was shocked by his response.

    His letter:

    Mrs. Guidry,

    I normally don’t return emails that do not request a response, but I found yours so intriguing I simply felt led to respond.

    I see you are not a native to the Great State of Mississippi nor do you and I have similar political views. The people of our Great State overwhelmingly share my same or similar views on Government responsibility. I appreciate you going to the trouble to share yours with me, but quite frankly, and with all due respect, I could care less. I would, however, recommend that there are a rather large number of like minded citizens in Illinois that would love to see you return.

    With warmest personal regards,

    Karl Oliver

    Well, bless his heart. I guess “go back to Illinois” is the new “go back to Africa” but for white people.

  5. Thanks for this, Jan. The President is right. The people spoke in 2012, when we elected him for another FOUR years, not three. It is his duty to nominate a judge and the Senate’s duty to confirm.

    I hope the Dems constantly point to Rethug obstruction and intransigence in their commercials this fall. And I hope the people listen.

    • Well, the silliest thing from all of this is the notion that President Obama will keep the nomination open until the election and then allow the Republican Senators an escape hatch.

      Sen. Patrick Leahy already signaled that the process should be wrapped up by Memorial Day. If it is not, and surely by Labor Day, expect the president to withdraw the nomination. Judge Garland has an important job on the DC Circuit that he needs to get back to and keeping the nomination open would politicize the entire process.

  6. In the News: Maybe it is time to make climate change a campaign issue?

    64 percent of adults say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming, up from 55 percent at this time last year. According to the poll, concerns about global warming have increased among all party groups since 2015, though concerns remain much higher among Democrats than Republicans and Independents.

    In March, 40 percent of Republicans said they worry a great deal or fair amount about global warming, up from 31 percent last year. Independents expressing concern increased nine points, from 55 percent to 64 percent. Democrats’ concern is up slightly less — four points — and is now at 84 percent.

    Climate Change: another thing that makes Republicans wildly out of touch with the rest of America.

  7. In the News: Chance for a Democratic House? Probably still out of reach, but reason for Republicans to start worrying.

    “They’re about to detonate a nuclear bomb on themselves,” said one savvy House Democratic strategist following Tuesday’s primaries. “If Ted Cruz is your back up plan, you’re screwed,” the strategist gleefully added. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not. But now that it’s extremely likely that the Republican Party will nominate Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, congressional Republicans are entering uncharted and potentially dangerous territory.

    So many assumptions have been wrong this cycle that it’s difficult to be definitive about another: that the House majority won’t be in play in 2016.

    Republicans are sitting on their largest majority since 1928 – 247 seats to 188 – meaning Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats, a daunting challenge given the GOP’s immense redistricting advantage and the vaporization of swing districts. But all cycle, Democrats have daydreamed about Republicans nominating an extremely polarizing presidential candidate, and suddenly it’s almost certain they will get their wish. […]

    What’s more surprising than Trump’s rise has been congressional Republicans’ passivity and acquiescence at the prospect of nominating a candidate whose offensive statements about Muslims, Mexicans and others threaten to push the party’s brand further to the fringe. Aside from Speaker Paul Ryan’s condemnations, Trump’s behavior and statements have been met with deafening and puzzling silence from many House Republicans, including many in swing districts. […]

    Among the types of seats Democratic strategists believe Trump or Cruz could put into play are: 1) high-Hispanic districts, 2) high-education districts and 3) high-income districts. There’s no doubt Trump or Cruz could cause Republicans huge problems in heavily Latino districts, including CA-10, CA-21, CA-25, CO-06, FL-26, NV-03, NV-04 and TX-23. And the heavier the drag from the top of the ticket, the more expensive these types of seats will be to defend.

    Cook has shifted ratings on 10 seats to more favorable for Democrats. Any pickups that make the margin closer would give us more leverage in the House.

  8. In the News: NFL may reject Atlanta Super Bowl bid over anti-gay religious “liberty” law:

    [The] league released a statement in response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s question about whether the league had any position on Georgia House Bill 757.

    The statement from league spokesman Brian McCarthy reads, “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

    The bill has passed the Georgia House and Senate and is on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

  9. In stopped-clock news, George Will pens an op-ed calling the GOP position incoherent:

    In their tossed salad of situational ethics, the Republicans’ most contradictory and least conservative self-justification is: The court’s supposedly fragile legitimacy is endangered unless the electorate speaks before a vacancy is filled. The preposterous premise is that the court will be “politicized” unless vacancies are left vacant until a political campaign registers public opinion about, say, “Chevron deference.” […]

    Republicans who vow to deny Garland a hearing and who pledge to support Donald Trump if he is their party’s nominee are saying: Democracy somehow requires that this vacancy on a non-majoritarian institution must be filled only after voters have had their say through the election of the next president. And constitutional values will be served if the vacancy is filled not by Garland but by someone chosen by President Trump, a stupendously uninformed dilettante who thinks judges “sign” what he refers to as “bills.” There is every reason to think that Trump understands none of the issues pertinent to the Supreme Court’s role in the American regime, and there is no reason to doubt that he would bring to the selection of justices what he brings to all matters — arrogance leavened by frivolousness.

  10. In the News: Sunday, the president visits Cuba

    When Obama walks off Air Force One onto the red carpet at Jose Marti airport in Havana Sunday, he’ll be taking another big step towards normal relations with the island, and kicking another hole in the wall of isolation that the U.S. spent decades trying to build around Cuba.

    “The Cold War has been over for a long time,” Obama said, before his historic handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama last year. “I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born.”

    Obama will be the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge arrived on a battleship in 1928. […]

    Several dozen members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — are expected to join the president’s delegation. Business people will also be tagging along in hopes of uncovering new economic opportunities.

    While the U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in effect, the administration has been chipping away it over the last 15 months. The Commerce and Treasury Departments have steadily eased restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba. On Tuesday, the administration opened the door for individual Americans to travel to Cuba for “people-to-people” purposes, without having to sign up for an expensive group tour. Direct mail service between the U.S. and Cuba resumed this past week. And U.S. airlines are expected to launch scheduled service to the island later this year, with up to 110 flights a day.

    • The White House posts “Engaging the Cuban People: Here’s What President Obama Will Be Doing in Cuba

      President Obama will be in Cuba from March 20 to March 22, a short window to meet with Cubans from different walks of life who have different perspectives on how we can move forward in rebuilding a productive relationship between the United States and Cuba — one that is good for both our countries, and that improves the lives of the Cuban people.

      Here’s a first look at some of the key stops the President will make while in Havana, and why they are significant to both the Cuban and American people:

      Sunday, March 20

      Old Havana Walking Tour

      On the day he touches down in Cuba, President Obama and his family will visit Old Havana. When the First Family visits the Havana Cathedral during their walk, they will be met by Cardinal Ortega, the Latin Rite Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Havana and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church played an integral role in supporting the opening between the U.S. and Cuban governments. […]

      Havana is a source of great pride to the Cuban people. The President will walk past a few places that illustrate the history, cultural significance, and beauty of this historic city, including Havana Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Museo de la Ciudad, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de San Francisco.

      More information and photos at the link.

  11. Thoughtful and sad, really, piece by Paul Waldman in The Week:

    The problem is not the Republicans’ growing ideological extremism, troubling though that may be. The problem is that they decided some time ago that there are rules and there are norms, and while rules need to be followed, norms can be torn down whenever they find that doing so advances their momentary political goals. […]

    The GOP is divided between those people — variously called the Tea Party or the base or the insurgents — and the rest of the party, who are terrified of them and feel the need to continually prove their anti-government bona fides and ideological purity. So the entire party embraces not just ideological radicalism, but a procedural radicalism as well.

    Then you can combine that with the positively venomous loathing all Republicans seem to share for Barack Obama. It was only a norm that said you don’t shout “You lie!” at the president during a speech to Congress, or that you don’t demand to see his birth certificate, or that you don’t accuse him of hating America just because you have political differences. Put it all together, and of course Republicans would refuse to allow him to name a new Supreme Court justice.

    Where does this all lead? To Donald Trump.

    When your party proves again and again that it treats governing like a joke, you wind up picking a joke of a candidate to be your nominee for president. You choose someone who doesn’t know the first thing about how government works, and couldn’t care less. You push your voters to the least serious person, the one who “tells it like it is” — in other words, the one with the most contempt not just for the norms of politics but for the norms of civilized human behavior. That’s what Republicans have ended up with. And they pretend that they can’t understand how such a thing could have happened.

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