Having run out of contrived arguments for blocking President Obama’s nomination of a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senator Ron Johnson (R – WI) gave a refreshingly honest assessment of the situation in a radio interview yesterday.
As he explained, the Republican obstruction has nothing to do with precedent or principle and everything to do with power. If the current president was a Republican, the party would have no issue with letting that president appoint Scalia’s replacement during an election year.
Which he’s going to do all he can to hold out in hopes that the next president will be a Republican who will make an ideologically-consistent appointment.
“It’s a different situation,” Johnson said. “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing — if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”
“But when you’re talking about a conservative justice now being replaced by a liberal president who would literally flip the court — you know, let’s face it, I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion — President Obama’s nominee would flip the court from a 5-4 conservative to a 5-4 liberal controlled court,” the senator continued. “And that’s the concern, is that our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, our First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty, will be threatened. And so it’s an incredibly serious moment in terms of what’s the composition of the court going to be.”
As it happens, pace Johnson, lots of people have at least pretended to be under some illusion that this issue turned on something other than the Court’s balance of power since moments after Scalia’s death. But it’s nice to hear Johnson drop the act and admit that the stakes really are higher than normal in this case, and it’s in the Republican Party’s best interest to do everything in their power to deny President Obama the opportunity to pick Scalia’s replacement. Even if it undermines all kinds of small-d democratic norms in the process.
Here’s the audio of Johnson’s exchange, via American Bridge: