Arm Wrestling Over the Supreme Court

Chuck Grassley

I can’t help doing a little back of the napkin calculation about why the republicans have decided to dismiss any notion of a hearing on Barack Obama’s supreme court nominee. At first, I thought that this would surely come back to bite them at some point in the future, but then I thought about it a little more.

There hasn’t ever really been a situation when a president who had an opportunity to nominate a supreme court justice during the first few months of their 8th year in office has not done so. So the question arises, how long before such a situation would likely emerge again?

We’ve had 112 justices since 1789 and that ends up being roughly one vacancy every couple of years. In other words, on average, every eight years, random chance might cause a vacancy during an election year. For one to happen during a president’s 8th year in office, that is going to be less frequent.

So even if the Republicans take control of the white house in 2017, it’ll be at least 8 years, if the candidate gets a second term, but there is only a 50% chance of a vacancy happening in that year, so if they won two successive 8-year terms, they would stand a better chance of seeing the situation, but this seems unlikely for a variety of reasons.

The reality is that we are looking at a whole generation before the shoe would be on the other foot and they might face the same scenario that they see today being thrown back at them. The cold facts are in their favor. They can block the nomination on the grounds of it being the last year of the president’s 8-years in office and they will likely never have to face the music we are now dancing to.

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