Majority Of Americans Want The Senate To Consider An Obama Nominee To SCOTUS
Another poll shows that most Americans would prefer that the vacancy on the Supreme Court be filled by President Obama than that it be left open for the next President to fill, but other factors make it unlikely the Senate will act.
A new CNN/ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia should be filled by a Justice selected by President Obama rather than waiting for the election of a new President:
Most Americans want to see President Barack Obama nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but the public is divided on what ideological tilt they’d prefer to see in a nominee, according to a new CNN/ORC poll published Thursday.
The poll also finds those surveyed are also split on whether Senate Republicans would be justified in using the filibuster or other procedural moves to prevent a vote on a nominee they oppose.
Overall, 58% say they’d like to see the President nominate someone to the Court rather than leave the seat vacant until a new president takes office next year, 41% would prefer a vacancy.
And more — 66% — say that whomever Obama nominates should get a hearing in the Senate. But once that happens, 48% say that if most or all Republicans in the Senate oppose Obama’s nominee, they would be justified in preventing a vote to confirm him or her.
Obama has said he does plan to nominate someone for the seat, and has called on the Senate to vote on his nominee. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has said the Senate Judiciary Committee would not hold hearings on any nominee put forward by Obama, nor would the full body vote on Obama’s choice.
The public’s divisions by party are almost as deep as those found in Washington. While majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (59%) want the President to nominate someone to fill the seat, just 29% of Republicans agree. And while Republicans see blocking a vote via Senate procedure as a justifiable move (77%), independents are more divided on that question (46% say it’s justified), while Democrats are not on board, just 25% say it’s justified.
On one matter, however, there is partisan agreement. Majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (69%) and Democrats (60%) want the GOP leadership in the Senate to hold hearings on the nominee.
These poll numbers are largely consistent with other public opinion polls on the issues that have arisen regarding filling the vacancy on the Court and how the Senate should respond to any nomination presented by the President. Immediately after Justice Scalia’s death and the announcement by top Senate Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley, supported by all of the Republican candidates for President, that the Republican Senate would not consider any nomination by President Obama to the Supreme Court and that the nation should wait until after the election and inauguration of a new President to fill the seat, polling seemed to indicate that Americans public were largely equally divided on whether or not they supported the position Senate Republicans were taking. Subsequent polls by Fox News,Reuters/IPSOS, and the Pew Research Center, as well as polling by Public Policy Polling of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, clearly show that a majority of the public believes that the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s nominee whoever it may end up being. Simultaneously, though, there are numbers in these polls that make it difficult for Senate Republicans to simply proceed as they normally would in the case of any other Supreme Court nomination. Specifically, each poll has shown that Republicans generally massively oppose the idea of letting President Obama fill the seat that Justice Scalia once held, and support the Senate blocking any nomination from the President via Senate procedures, although it is interesting to note that this poll seems to suggest that Republicans would support the decision to at least allow hearings. In addition to these poll numbers, conservative activists have pressed hard for “No Hearings, No Votes,” in recent days and have made it clear that moving from this position would likely cause a revolt on the right that could end up causing serious problems for Republicans concerned with holding the House and Senate in 2016 and defending open seats with candidates that actually have a chance of winning rather than candidates that meet some ideological purity test, an outcome that brought the GOP candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle in the past.
Given those competing interest, it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans will move off of their current position, at least for the time being. At least for the short term, it seems likely that they will continue to adamantly maintain the position they took in the wake of Scalia’s death, and which was apparently repeated during a meeting earlier this week between President Obama and members of the Republican and Democratic Senate leadership earlier this week, in no small part because the immediate political price that they would pay for deviating from refusing to consider the nomination is considerably larger than the price that they might pay by staying with their current position. Perhaps, at some point in the future, we’ll see them move off of this position and do something like at least hold hearings even if it’s clear that the nomination itself is doomed, but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. More importantly, the closer we get to Election Day and the end of the current Congress at the end of the year, the less likely it will become that they’ll bow to pressure from the Administration to move the nomination forward. The only factor that could cause that to change is if we start to see more tangible evidence that this position is hurting the GOP in the race for the White House, or in the battle to keep the Senate. Absent that, the GOP has no real political incentive to change its position.