(Chuck Muth) – Since Nevada is at ground zero in the coming mega-battle over who will replace the late, great conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, let’s set the stage and clear the air.
First, I say Nevada is at the center or the storm because we have four political figures who are deeply ingrained in the controversy: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Gov. Brian Sandoval, Rep. Joe Heck and a “mystery guest.” More on them in a minute.
As for the air-clearing, understand this: Yes, President Barack Obama has the right to nominate a replacement. Not an obligation. The right.
Yes, the Senate, for its part, has the power to approve or reject Obama’s pick. And thanks to the filibuster – which Democrats, including Reid and Obama, used extensively to block judicial nominations in the past – Republicans in the Senate have the right, though not obligation, to return the favor.
Before Scalia’s death the Supreme Court was evenly divided philosophically, with four conservative justices, four liberal justices, and Justice Anthony Kennedy who blows like a reed in a wind storm. As such, another liberal Obama pick like the ones he’s already put on the bench would dramatically shift the court’s disposition to the left.
Which is why Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already thrown down the gauntlet and declared that no Obama nominee will be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
McConnell believes American voters should have a say in this decision by delaying it until after the November elections and let the new president and Senate, elected by the people with full knowledge of what’s at stake, resolve the matter.
That, of course, doesn’t sit well with Reid, who believes – and not without good reason – that Republicans will cave-in to outside pressure and consider a “closet liberal” nominee put up by Obama.
Enter tax-hiking RINO Sandoval. Reid put him on the federal bench once before and seems perfectly willing to do so again if it means not letting a potential new Republican president pick Scalia’s replacement.
Yes, an ideology-free Sandoval would be perfectly acceptable to Democrats, and probably some mush-headed Republicans. But conservatives knew Justice Scalia. And Brian Sandoval is no Antonin Scalia. More like David Souter. McConnell & Company would be nuts to replace Scalia with Sandoval.
Which brings us to Heck.
Senate Republicans are defending a lot more seats this cycle than Democrats, and control of the Senate is absolutely up for grabs. Heck, running to replace Reid, is really the only shot the GOP has of picking up a Senate seat, which may determine who controls the Senate confirmation process next year.
So the big question now is whether or not our “mystery guest,” Sharron Angle, will jump into the GOP primary and challenge Heck. Since Republicans rarely blow an opportunity to blow an opportunity, don’t be surprised to see her try to blow this one for conservatives.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of Nevada News & Views