UPDATE: Just ran across item on judicial names Trump mentioned in Feb. 13 debate, both federal appeals judges, both appointed by George W. Bush: William Pryor (11th Circuit) and Diane Sykes (7th Circuit). Trump also expressed admiration for the late Justice Scalia. I may have missed that debate, or else watched, but missed this. This information alters the odds in stopping Garland, in that Trump may appoint someone right of Garland. But waiting until August will give GOP senators a better handle on Trump’s chances, if he is the nominee, as now seems likely. If he is, and if the GOP unifies behind Trump and if he looks likely to win in the fall, then taking a chance on the outcome of the fall election may be better than increasing the risk of losing the election by angering the GOP base. But if Trump looks likely to lose, confirming Garland in August remains the better bet, because any subsequent Democratic pick will be well to Garland’s left, and much younger.
There is an old adage: “Never bet the company.” Its verity was proven during the financial mega-meltdown when hyper-leveraged Wall Street firms went kaput. Put simply, of six imaginable possible presidents only one, Ted Cruz, can be counted on to nominate someone to the right of Merrick Garland. Neither John Kasich, an establishment type, nor Donald Trump, with no discernible judicial philosophy, can be counted on to do so. As for Hillary, the Bern, and Biden, all would appoint judges well to the left of Garland. I assume that Hillary has at least a 50-50 chance of winning — or that Biden does if Hillary is forced out by a smoking-gun email; Sanders would have little chance of winning, as Ds won’t nominate him unless forced by voter-base revolt against super-delegate gamesmanship. Trump is now favored on the GOP side, which leaves less than one chance in four that Cruz wins, on my assumed numbers. But current prediction markets put Hillary at a 72 percent chance of winning; with Trump favored over Cruz for the GOP nod Cruz’s chances are regarded as less than 14 percent (one in seven). Markets are of course more likely to be right as to the odds.
Because Obama likely will insist that Garland be seated by the October 3 start of the Court’s term, and thus likely will withdraw Garland if Rs wait until after the election, Rs should hedge their bets rather than bet the company. Start a hearing on August 1, days after the Democratic convention ends (might even limit post-convention bounce). Knowing the nominees and whether there will be a third-party candidate, the odds for the fall campaign will be clearer. Vetting Garland will take at least three months, so the added delay is short. Subject Garland to searching queries as was done with Samuel Alito, but without the nastiness and character assassination Alito endured. A vote taken before Labor Day (September 5) — while Americans are still at the beach — will allow Garland to quietly take his seat with ease. Were Obama to yank Garland before August he would signal that his nomination was a political ploy from the start.
Refusing to meet with the gentlemanly, moderate Garland is utterly foolish. Were someone like hyper-partisan hack Eric Holder nominated such a refusal, backed by ample historical precedent, would be eminently justified. Not here. Dumbest of all are GOP leaders calling for the voters to have a say in who sits on the Court. Suppose Hillary wins, but without enough coattails to flip the Senate. She will surely nominate a far-lefty — one at least a decade younger than Garland’s 63 years. Videos of GOP senators hailing the voters will put them in a box of their own creation, and make blocking even a far-left nominee a political loser.
SUMMING UP: In blocking Garland the GOP is attempting to fill an inside straight, for which the odds are 11:1.