Supreme Court

'This Is The Most Important Battle Of Our Lives'

Today on “Breitbart News Daily,” Penny Nance of the right-wing group Concerned Women for America told activists to prepare for “the fight of our lives” over the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Nance said that President Obama is “out of control” and urged conservatives to support the Senate Republicans’ refusal to even grant a hearing to his nominee. “It is going to be a blood match,” she said. “It is going to be a cage match…. This is the most important battle of our lives.”

“I’ve never said that before,” she said. “What hangs in the balance is any issue any one of your listeners care about.” Nance said that with Garland on the bench, laws curbing abortion access will fall because jurists like Garland will “legislate from the bench.”

“The key to this is Chuck Grassley and Sen. McConnell,” she said, referring to the Judiciary Committee chairman and the majority leader. “Let them feel the love. They are standing firm. I have spoken personally and met with Chuck Grassley. I have prayed with him. I have talked with him about this. He has assured me that he is on point on this. [Unintelligible] He 100 percent agrees with everything I’m saying. What’s coming at him, even in all the years he’s been at this, I don’t know he’s ready for.”

She added: “In over 80 years, there hasn’t been a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in the last year of a president’s administration. We’re not going to change that now just because the Democrats want their way.” Nance’s claim is flat-out false, as the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of President Reagan’s term in 1988.

Pat Robertson: The Supreme Court Has 'Ripped Up The Fabric Of American Life'

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson told Senate Republicans to “hold firm” on their Supreme Court blockade.

“If Republicans cave, they can kiss the Senate goodbye,” he said. (Polls actually show the Supreme Court blockade hurting Republicans’ re-election prospects).

After ranting about how conservatives got “snookered” by the appointment of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the televangelist said that “the Supreme Court has dominated our nation: marriage, homosexuality, schools, you go down the line, prayer and so forth, they’ve come out against, against, against and they’ve ripped up the fabric of American life.”

Another Senate Republican Admits His Party's Supreme Court Blockade Is All About Politics

Just hours after President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, several Senate Republicans said that they would refuse to even consider Garland’s nomination and repeated their claim that whoever wins the presidential election should be the one to fill the vacancy on the court.

These Republicans continue to justify their obstruction by pointing to a nonexistent tradition and a made-up constitutional principle that the Senate doesn’t vote on nominees to the Supreme Court in election years. They seem to be sticking with this talking point even though a cursory glance at congressional history (and the Constitution) shows that the argument is completely baseless.

According to Republicans, Obama’s presidency is effectively over nearly a year before the end of his second term.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., admitted that Republicans are going into unchartered waters with their unprecedented blockade. The GOP has decided to stand by this “principle,” no matter how wrong-headed it is, in order to claim that their maneuvering has nothing to do with partisan politics.

But Sen. Jeff Flake today exposed that argument as nothing but an excuse.

The Arizona Republican said that the Senate should consider Garland in a lame duck session if Hillary Clinton is elected president, fearing that Clinton would appoint a jurist who is more liberal than Garland.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee who is generally deferential on presidential nominees, said “yes” when asked whether he would move to confirm Garland in the lame-duck session if Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, wins in November.

“For those of us who are concerned about the direction of the court and wanting at least a more centrist figure than between him and somebody that President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear — in a lame duck,” Flake said Wednesday after Obama named Garland.

Sen. Orrin Hatch also said he was open to a vote but only in the lame-duck session, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg has “learned that Senate Republicans have signaled via ‘back channels’ that they would approve Garland, but only after the general election in November.”

Flake’s suggestion shows the absurdity of the party’s blockade. If the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade was really about the principle that Obama’s successor should appoint the next justice, then Flake shouldn’t care whether President Clinton would appoint a more liberal figure than Garland.

And if the GOP really thinks that March 2016 is too late to consider an Obama nominee, then why would November or December of this year be appropriate?

Flake knows that the GOP’s stance is all about politics and that their “tradition” talking point is not only erroneous but also an attempt to avoid the charge that they are trying to play partisan politics with the Supreme Court.

Flake’s Republican colleague Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin made a similar admission when he confessed that the Senate would have considered a nominee in the president’s final year had that president been a Republican.

If it wasn’t, then he wouldn’t propose a lame-duck session to approve Garland’s nomination just in case a President-elect Clinton decides to appoint someone less to the GOP’s liking.

Conservative Groups Double Down On SCOTUS Obstruction

After President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court today, conservative groups quickly doubled down on their calls for Senate Republicans to block any person the president nominates to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Although a handful of senators are now hinting that they may be willing to at least meet with Garland — who has won praise from Republicans in the past — conservative groups have reiterated their demands that the GOP block his nomination.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Concerned Women for America announced that “President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court does not change the fact that the Senate needs to continue to do the proper thing by fulfilling its role of ‘advice and consent’” — by which CWA means blocking a nominee.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable.”

Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed” with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics about the “serious questions” he said there were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.” Kayla Moore, who heads the Foundation for Moral Law, the group founded by her husband Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, also opted for vague and dire warnings, saying that Americans “may very well lose our rights” if Garland is confirmed.

Anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, while at the same time struggling to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life didn’t bother to criticize Garland at all, writing instead that this is “no time for a lame duck President to push through a judge for a lifetime appointment.” (Never mind that Obama, with nearly a year left in his second term in office, is not a lame duck president.)

The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote:

This changes nothing. We do not know this nominee but we do know Barack Obama. Anyone he nominates will join the voting bloc on the Court that consistently upholds abortion on-demand. The President should not be permitted one last opportunity to stack the Court with pro-abortion Justices.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Life dug up this one unconvincing piece of opposition research:

Consider that Judge Garland spoke at a gathering celebrating Linda Greenhouse’s book on Justice Harry Blackmun, Becoming Justice Blackmun. He described the release of the papers of the late Justice Blackmun—the author of one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions, Roe v. Wade—as a “great gift to the country.”

Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman said his group would oppose any nominee who does not publicly “renounce Roe v. Wade”:

"Millions of lives hang in the balance of each ruling on abortion put forth by the Supreme Court. I refuse to support any nominee - Republican or Democrat - that will not renounce Roe v. Wade and commit to restoring legal protections to the pre-born," said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.



"I strongly urge the members of the Judiciary Committee to hold fast to their promise, for the sake of the future of our country and the future of our posterity," said Newman. "The Senate Republican leadership cannot afford to break this important promise to their conservative, pro-life base, if they expect us to vote for any of them ever again."

Gun groups also came out swinging against Garland, with the National Rifle Association claiming that he “ does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense” and Gun Owners of America colorfully calling on the Senate to “bury this nomination and write ‘Dead On Arrival’ as its epitaph.” Both groups based their objections on Garland’s vote, as a D.C. Circuit judge, simply to rehear an important gun rights case.

The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino — who previously called Garland a “best case scenario” Obama nominee to the Supreme Court — has been relying on thesame flimsy criticism to attack Garland.

We’ll update this post with more reactions as they come in.

This post has been updated.

Courting Extremism: The Week The GOP Admitted Its Supreme Court Blockade Is Based On A Lie

Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.

We are introducing a new series here on Right Wing Watch as the GOP’s obstructionism reaches a new low, with many Republican leaders now claiming that whomever President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court should receive absolutely no consideration from senators, despite their duties as outlined in the Constitution.

In response to the Supreme Court blockade, we will be putting together a weekly update on the Right’s response to the current Supreme Court vacancy.

5) Federalist Society Fine With A Perpetual Vacancy

Originally, Republicans insisted that they were simply upholding a recently-discovered tradition where the Senate refuses to consider Supreme Court nominees in election years.

However, since this tradition doesn’t actually exist, conservatives have become more honest about what’s really going on: they just don’t like the fact that Obama is president.

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Dean Reuter of the Federalist Society, a major right-wing legal group, commended the Senate GOP leadership for refusing to consider whomever Obama nominates to fill the vacancy. When asked if Republicans should continue to block hearings if the next president is a Democrat, Reuter said he is fine leaving the seat open indefinitely:

There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as ten at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the Court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.

Unless, of course, a Republican is elected president.

4) Ron Johnson Gives Away The Game

Apparently, the fictitious no-appointments-in-an-election-year tradition only applies to Democratic presidents, at least according to Sen. Ron Johnson.

The Wisconsin Republican said in a radio interview yesterday that “it’d be a different situation” if a GOP president was appointing a justice to the bench, saying that the Senate Republicans would show “more accommodation” to a Republican president.

Johnson might be interested in hearing from his voters: A recent poll found that 62 percent of Wisconsinites say the open Supreme Court seat should be filled this year, and 76 percent “think the Senate should at least see who gets put forward before making a decision on whether they should be confirmed.”

3) ‘We Are Setting A Precedent Here Today’

At least one Republican senator is honest enough to admit that the Republicans don’t have Senate history on their side.

Sen. Lindsey Graham told a Judiciary Committee meeting that the GOP is about to create a new precedent by refusing to even consider a nominee from President Obama, as the Huffington Post reports:

One of the Republican Party's most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.

And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.

"We are setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year at least of a lame duck eight-year term -- I would say it’s going to be a four-year term -- that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today," Graham said in an unusual session of the Judiciary Committee, where members debated not bills or judicial nominees, but Obama's right to carry out his constitutional powers in an election year.

"We're headed to changing the rules, probably in a permanent fashion," he said.

Nonetheless, Graham said that “he still supports Grassley's decision not to hold hearings for Obama's nominee.”

2) ‘It’s A Political Argument’

While Senate Republicans insist that they aren’t inserting partisanship into the Supreme Court fight and are simply following tradition, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said at CPAC that the fight is all about winning “a political clash.”

In video provided by Democracy Partners and Americans United for Change, King said that he supports the actions of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley “as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment.”

1) Who Cares About The Sixth Amendment?

It seems that the GOP is not only ignoring the Constitution’s “advice and consent” requirement but also the heart of the Sixth Amendment.

In a taste of things to come, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network took to the National Review to attack a possible Supreme Court nominee, Judge Jane Kelly, for having once worked as a defense attorney.

That’s right, Severino seemed to suggest that it is disqualifying that Kelly worked as a defense attorney because her past clients include people accused of vicious crimes.

Of course, everyone accused of a crime isn’t necessarily guilty, and according to the Sixth Amendment, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” and “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Severino’s outrageous article is also an opportunity to point out that her group, the Judicial Crisis Network, was originally named the Judicial Confirmation Network when it was founded during the Bush administration for the purpose of advocating for the smooth confirmation of judges.

Rick Joyner: Hurricane Katrina Was God's Way Of Punishing Gay People

Last week on “The Jim Bakker Show,” televangelist Rick Joyner repeated his claim that gay pride events are to blame for Hurricane Katrina, alleging that the storm was a sign of God’s judgment and “a wakeup call.”

Joyner also spent time criticizing the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling during a discussion about the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

After wondering if Scalia’s death was a sign from either God or Satan, Joyner again insisted that while he doesn’t like conspiracy theories, “there’s something really suspicious” about Scalia’s death: “There’s something really fishy about this that needs to be answered.”

“This could fracture our nation and bring about Civil War,” Joyner said of Scalia’s death. “It has that potential. That sounds extreme but, I tell you, you wait and see.”

This led him to declare that the Supreme Court has become an out-of-control force of tyranny and that the five justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality “need to be impeached.”

Steve King Admits The Supreme Court Blockade Is All About Politics

In comments captured by Americans United for Change at CPAC last week, Rep. Steve King praised Sen. Chuck Grassley’s stance that the Senate should not even consider any jurist nominated by President Obama to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

While Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has insisted that he is blocking a Supreme Court appointment because he’s abiding by a (nonexistent) tradition that the Senate doesn't confirm justices during an election year, King seemed to give away the game and admit that Senate Republicans are engaging in a political fight to stop Obama.

Video via Democracy Partners / Americans United for Change.

The Iowa Republican congressman said he would support Grassley’s Supreme Court blockade “as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment.” King dismissed concerns about the Senate’s constitutional obligation to consider Supreme Court nominees and made it clear that the blockade is all about anti-Obama politics.

I’m going to defend Chuck Grassley and whatever he decides to do on this at least as far as — as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment. And I say that because I’m on the Judiciary Committee in the House, we have a voice but we don't have a vote, that this argument about who should do the nomination and whether there should be the advice and consent of the Senate so that the president can make that appointment, this swings back around.

There will be all kinds of constitutional arguments that are made and they will say “process” and "tradition” and “constitution” and “precedent” are going to guide us all. And then they’ll make up those that support their argument and some of them who are making those arguments will be contradicting their previous arguments the last time these things came up, like Schumer, for example.

But in the end, we should understand that it’s a political argument and a political clash of this will be played out with higher and higher intensity moving forward until November. If Chuck Grassley and Republicans can hold off on a nomination or vote down a nomination until the election, then I think it will be clear that it’s not going to happen until the next president makes that appointment.

After shrugging off the Constitution’s “advice and consent” provision, King said he would only support judicial nominees “who believe and adhere to the principle that the Constitution means what it says and needs to be interpreted to mean what it was understood to mean at the time of ratification.” (That’s code for results-based rulings cheered by conservatives.)

Rafael Cruz: Gay Marriage Will Destroy Society

Rafael Cruz, the father and campaign surrogate of GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, launched into yet another rant about the Supreme Court in an interview today on “Breitbart News Daily,” this time warning that an additional “liberal justice” on the high court will destroy all of society.

“One more justice like that,” the elder Cruz said of the four justices appointed by President Clinton and President Obama, “and we will lose our right to keep and bear arms. We will lose all of our religious freedom. We will see abortion on demand to the day of delivery. We will see the destruction of traditional marriage, and the family is the foundation of society — if the family is destroyed, society will be destroyed.”

Of course, the Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of marriage equality — which conservatives deride as “the destruction of traditional marriage” — and society has somehow managed to survive.

He went on to say that Donald Trump would appoint a liberal jurist and so “it would be disastrous if [he] became president,” alleging that Trump is a phony conservative who “lies constantly.”

“Trump is the biggest enigma we have,” he added. “We don’t know where he’d be on any issue.”

Do Conservatives Even Believe In The Bill Of Rights?

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) has somehow managed to stoop even lower in its dishonest and deceitful campaign to block the Senate from even considering whomever President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Carrie Severino of JCN, which was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network but rebranded as a group opposed to judicial confirmations coincidentally after Obama took office, took to National Review last week to attack Jane Kelly, a U.S. circuit court judge whom Obama is reportedly considering nominating to the high court, for once defending a child predator while working as a public defender.

As Zachary Pleat of Media Matters pointed out, Severino not only twisted Kelly’s actions in the case, but attacked Kelly simply for doing her job as a defense attorney.

Severino, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, must know that even people accused of heinous crimes have a right to an attorney who would vigorously defend their client. It would completely undermine the judicial process to say that the accused should have no legal representation or should have a lawyer who will simply throw the case rather than fulfill their obligation to defend them.

After all, the right to a fair trial lies at the heart of the Sixth Amendment, and JCN actively promoted the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who once worked on the defense of convicted murderer John Ferguson.

This attack, Pleat writes, “echoes past right-wing media attacks on Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Department of Justice civil rights division nominee Debo Adegbile.”

Several conservative pundits accused Clinton of leading a “war on women” after she was asked by a judge, in 1975, to defend a sexual assault suspect while she was working in legal aid, while Senate Republicans successfully blocked Adegbile’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division because they were upset he once worked on a legal team representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killed a police officer, on an appeals case regarding whether sentencing instructions given to a jury were constitutional. As Miranda said:

It was an ugly episode, in which politicians like [Ted] Cruz essentially declared that not all criminal defendants deserve the Constitution’s guarantee of legal counsel. And it’s telling that Cruz, the self-proclaimed lover of the Constitution, brought it up in his latest ugly screed.

Clinton and Adegbile aren’t the only people targeted by Republicans simply for acting as defense attorneys.

In 2014, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) ran attack ads against South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, for his work as a criminal defense attorney, using the tagline: “Vincent Sheheen: he represents criminals, not us.”

South Carolina Bar Association President Alice Paylor said the RGA ad campaign amounted to an attack on “the whole basis for the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution. According to them, I guess everyone accused of something is automatically guilty.”

The American Bar Association sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, a former prosecutor who chaired the RGA at the time, noting, “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government – even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.”

The rule of law that governs our society delivers justice specifically because everyone has a right to competent representation. This right is especially important for those who arouse our fear and anger, to ensure that the process by which they are judged is fair and just. This process is what distinguishes us from our darker history, when mobs decided guilt or innocence and punished those they deemed guilty.

And in 2010, a group formed by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, launched attack ads “against the Obama Justice Department for hiring lawyers who, at one time or another, did legal work on behalf of terror suspects.” The group branded the lawyers the "Al Qaeda 7," questioned their loyalty to the country and demanded that the Justice Department release their names.

We can only imagine how Republicans would have gone after John Adams for representing soldiers charged with murder during the Boston Massacre.

Ted Cruz: Supreme Court On Brink Of Throwing Religious People In Prison

Last week at CPAC, Ted Cruz continued to baselessly assert that the Supreme Court is on the verge of crushing all freedom in America.

“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ruling that government can take our religious liberty away and force every one of us to violate our faith on penalty of prison or fine,” Cruz said. “We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandments monuments torn down all over this country. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court erasing the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.”

He went on to warn that the World Court will reign supreme and veterans memorials will be torn down across America if Democrats are allowed to place any more justices on the Supreme Court.

Federalist Society VP Says Senate Could Ignore SCOTUS Nominees Indefinitely

During the administration of George W. Bush, the Federalist Society helped the administration fill the federal courts with judges who embrace a right-wing legal ideology. Back then, group leaders criticized Democratic senators for filibustering some nominees. But at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, a senior Federalist Society staffer praised Republican Senators who have refused to even give a hearing to a nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia  and suggested that if a Democrat is elected president this year, the Senate could continue its obstructionist blockade through the next administration.

The Federalist Society has often portrayed itself as a polite debating society and downplayed the important and destructive role it has played promoting far-right legal theories as well as judges and political officials who can turn that ideology into public policy. The Federalist Society’s influence reached a pinnacle with the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an ideological warrior with deep roots in the right-wing legal movement. Alito, whose nomination was shepherded through the Senate by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, has returned the favor as a justice, helping raise money for the Federalist Society and other right-wing groups, and becoming the single most pro-corporate justice on the most pro-business Supreme Court since the New Deal.

Dean Reuter, vice president of the Federalist Society, led a brief workshop at CPAC with John Yoo, a law professor and author of the infamous “torture memos” while working at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Reuter and Yoo are co-editors of “Liberty’s Nemesis: The Unchecked Expansion of the State,” published last month. The book focuses on the growth of the administrative state, but Reuter began by addressing the dispute between the White House and Senate Republican leaders who have declared that they will refuse to even consider a Supreme Court nominee this year.

Reuter said it was the Senate’s duty to act as a check on executive power.

But I’m happy to report that the law and the Constitution are on the Senate’s side here. The president surely does have a duty to nominate someone, but the Senate has a co-equal duty as a co-equal branch of government to, in this case, operate as a check. It doesn’t have any responsibility or any duty to host one-on-one meetings with the nominee, or hold a hearing, or hold a committee vote or a floor vote. There’s no timetable. It’s not as if the president sends somebody over and says, we need this back next month, or next Wednesday, or whatever.

So the Senate is perfectly well within its prerogative, even the proper understanding of checks and balances, it can easily be said that the role of the Senate is to check the president’s power in this instance, the appointment power, especially I think when you’re dealing with a third branch of government and a lifetime appointment.

It’s not the president appointing the secretary of the Department of Commerce, it’s the president making an appointment to an independent, third branch of government and the Senate’s entitled to do its full due, which in this case may be not to act.

When asked if the Constitution would support the Senate’s refusal to act indefinitely if a Democrat were elected president, he said:

There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as 10 at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.

The Federalist Society would undoubtedly experience a different sense of urgency if a Republican were elected president and given the opportunity to put more right-wing activists like Samuel Alito on the court.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 3/3/16

  • James Dobson says that the future of the Supreme Court makes this "one of the most significant national elections in American history. The future of our nation is hanging in the balance, and we dare not make a mistake this time around." 
  • "Coach" Dave Daubenmire demands to know why pastors are remaining silent "as Evangelical Christian Ted Cruz OPENLY prays with Mormon Glenn Beck."
  • The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property blasts CPAC for allowing gay and atheist groups to participate: "We call upon the American Conservative Union to rescind its welcoming of organizations like Log Cabin Republicans and Atheist Voters as sponsors and exhibitors. Doing so would show consistency with the word conservative in its name."
  • FRC prays that Antonin Scalia's replacement will be "speedily confirmed" ... after being nominated by the next president, of course: "Thank God for the Senate leadership’s stand. May GOP members hold fast, whatever pressure to do otherwise may come. May the American people elect a president who will nominate a constitutional conservative justice in the New Year! May he or she be speedily confirmed. May voters be alert to the kind of justice each presidential candidate would select, given that the next president may have the opportunity to choose three or more! God have mercy upon us!"
  • Finally, CBN's David Brody defends all those poor Christians who are being criticized for supporting Donald Trump: "The condemnation of Trump’s Christian supporters from within evangelical circles is troubling. Is there now a threshold of Christianity that you need to achieve to be a 'real evangelical?' In other words, if you support Cruz you’re a true believer but if you go with Trump you’re not? Are 'Trump Christians' going to have to wear a political Scarlet Letter?"

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

Ted Cruz: Gay Marriage Will Pull Christian Broadcasters Off The Air

Sen. Ted Cruz has added a new twist to his unsubstantiated claim that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last year will cause religious schools that don’t recognize same-sex marriage to lose their tax exemptions. In a speech last week to the National Religious Broadcasters convention, Cruz said that the Obergefell ruling will also force Christian broadcasters off the airwaves.

Cruz completely twisted remarks made during the Obergefell arguments by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli. While Verrilli said that he couldn’t answer a question about tax exemptions, Cruz alleged that “the answer from the Obama Justice Department in the open court of the Supreme Court of the United States was yes, that is a very real possibility that the IRS will come after you, that if your hosts go on air and say, ‘the Bible teaches that marriage is not defined by man, it is defined by God as the union of one man and one woman to mirror the relationship of Jesus Christ and the church,’ that you risk the federal government yanking your FCC license. That’s the threat we’re facing. They’re not hiding from this threat. They’re saying in open court, ‘We will use the power of government to go after and target those who speak against us.’”

Despite Cruz’s claim, legal analysts and religious groups have said it would be highly unlikely that marriage equality will bring about the end of tax exemptions for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage.

Secondly, the FCC issue never came up in court, and Verrilli never came close to claiming that the government will go after religious broadcasters or people who speak out against same-sex marriage.

Cruz simply made it up.

This shouldn’t be surprising, as the Texas senator also falsely claimed that the legalization of gay marriage will lead to criminal penalties for pastors who refuse to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

The Cruel Irony Of The Anti-Choice Movement's TRAP Strategy

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which could be the most influential abortion rights case in decades. Whole Woman’s Health, which addresses a Texas law that aims to close abortion clinics by saddling them with expensive and unnecessary regulations, puts to the test the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of passing targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws meant to squeeze abortion providers out of existence.

As early as 1990, attorney Walter Dellinger, who went on to serve in the Clinton administration, was warning that the emerging strategy of setting up obstacles to abortion access would push women to obtain abortions later in their pregnancies, a more expensive and less safe procedure. These supposed “compromise” measures, he noted, were at the same time sometimes coupled with calls to cut off legal abortion during the second trimester of pregnancy. Dellinger wrote in The American Prospect:

To enact in the United States laws that simply prohibit abortions after twelve or eighteen weeks would constitute a strange and cruel response to the issue of late abortions. In this country, legislative deadlines for abortion would co-exist with access regulations designed to prevent women from being able to meet the deadline. No state truly concerned about either the increased maternal health risks or the moral implications of late abortions should consider the coercive step of prohibiting second trimester abortions while simultaneously pursuing policies that cause abortion to be delayed. … Bans on funding for abortions, shutting off access to public hospitals, parental consent/ judicial bypass laws, and testing requirements all fall into this category. Legislators who are troubled in principle by late abortions should support instead measures ensuring that every woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy can do so as early and as safely as possible.

Fast forward to late last year, when a study showed that exactly that had happened after Texas implemented its restrictive new law:

A new report released by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project — a research group based at the University of Texas at Austin that’s been tracking the state’s reproductive health policy over the past four years — finds that recent clinic shutdowns have greatly limited access to timely abortions statewide. In some cases, women had to wait nearly a month to be seen. In others, clinics had to turn women away, since they had no available appointment slots open.

As wait time to get an abortion increases, the estimated proportion of abortions performed in the second trimester increases. These later surgical abortions, although safe, are associated with a higher risk of complications and are significantly more costly to women than an earlier medical abortion. And even staunch abortion opponents are more opposed to late-term abortions compared to earlier procedures, citing the scientifically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks gestation.

At today’s arguments in Whole Women’s health, Justice Anthony Kennedy hinted at this issue, according to the Wall Street Journal’s early reports:

Justice Kennedy ends the string of questions from the women justices.

He notes that drug-induced abortions are up nationwide, but down in Texas, where the number of surgical abortions is up since the state enacted its law. He wondered whether such an impact was “medically wise.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg similarly called out Texas’ solicitor general for undermining his own claim that the state’s regulations were meant to protect women’s health:

Justice Ginsburg asks: How many women will be located more than 100 miles from a clinic? Mr. Keller makes reference to a 25% number, but says that number is high because it doesn’t take into account some women close to clinics in New Mexico.

That’s odd, Justice Ginsburg says. She wonders why Texas would consider those New Mexico clinics an option, given that they wouldn’t meet the standards set forth in the state law. If your argument is right, New Mexico is “not a way out” for Texas, the justice tells Mr. Keller.

Even as the anti-choice movement is pushing restrictive regulations that, as the Texas study showed, drive women to seek abortions later in their pregnancy, it is championing measures at the state and federal level that would cut off legal abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, partway through the second trimester.

Of course, the anti-choice movement is focusing on these two strategies because they believe they can pass muster in the courts and in public opinion in a way that the ultimate goal — an outright ban on abortion — would not. But what is left is not a regime that protects women’s health, as proponents of Texas’ law claim, but one that makes it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for women to obtain an abortion, which has been their ultimate goal all along.

Ben Carson: 'Conspiracy Books' Prove Gay Rights Are A Communist Plot Against America

At last week’s National Religious Broadcasters Presidential Forum, Ben Carson said that the separation of church and state and marriage equality are incompatible with the First Amendment and the Bible, while boasting that he’s read enough “conspiracy books” to know that public school lessons and anti-discrimination laws are authored by communist subversives.

Carson told host Eric Metaxas that “the First Amendment gives you the right to live according to your faith without being harassed,” adding that “separation of church and state is not in the United States Constitution, it was a Supreme Court ruling a few decades ago where it actually entered the lexicon.” In fact, the phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

This led him to criticize “our judicial Supreme Court” for making “bad decisions” like “the Dred Scott Act [sic]” and “the Uberfeld [sic] ruling on gay marriage.” (We assume that Carson was referring to the Supreme Court’s rulings in Dred Scott v. Sandford and Obergefell v. Hodges, respectively.)

He called Obergefell “way out of whack” because it “impinges upon the ability of people to live according to their faith," saying that “as president I would really encourage them to come up with legislation that protects the livelihood and the freedom of people who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. There’s no reason that those people should be persecuted in our society.”

Carson then explained that “the advocates of gay marriage” want to completely undo the Bible and, as a result, American society: “The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, is pretty firm against their way of thinking but if you can negate that then you can negate other portions of the Bible as well. This is the camel’s nose under the tent to undermine the Christian foundation of our nation.”

“I believe that there are a group of progressive individuals,” he said, “who have intentionally been trying to take over our school systems, been trying to take over the media in particular and various areas where they, through their propaganda, can change and undermine the principles that made America great and substitute them with their principles. And they have imposed political correctness so that you can’t even talk about it while they change the fabric of society. That’s what’s happened. That’s why we’ve changed so quickly. And that’s why, if we don’t do something about it, which takes courage, we will end up with a very fundamentally changed nation.”

He then reiterated his belief that gay rights are part of a larger conspiracy to destroy America, boasting that he knows the truth after reading “conspiracy books”: “Many people have been mesmerized by the secular-progressive movement and they have come to accept it almost by osmosis, without recognizing what the implications are. I know fully what they’re doing but that’s because I do a lot of reading. I read conspiracy books, I read all kinds of books. I also read communist books and socialist books and I know about some of these plans that they have.”

Carson went on to say that Bernie Sanders has performed well in the youth vote because leftists “have taken over the educational institutions so they can basically change the thinking of our young people.”

Rick Joyner Speculates The Scalia Was Murdered And Warns That America Is Heading For Civil War

On his most recent "Prophetic Perspective on Current Events" broadcast, right-wing televangelist Rick Joyner declared that "something smells like a rat" in the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia and warned that America could descend into civil war over efforts to replace him on the Supreme Court.

Joyner said that "you can't help but think" that something suspicious is going on regarding Scalia's death since no autopsy was performed.

"They rushed him in there and started the embalming process like they didn't want an autopsy," he said. "I'm not saying that he was murdered, but you can't help but wonder."

Joyner went on to say that just as the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision eventually plunged this nation into the Civil War, the court's recent marriage equality decision is likewise tearing this nation apart and could soon result in a violent conflict.

"We are in danger of a civil war in America," he warned. "We are in danger of fracturing, not just into two parts, but into many parts. I pray it doesn't happen. I pray it doesn't get violent but if you don't change your direction, you're going to end up where you're headed and that's the direction we're headed. I believe you could see America fracture into six different parts, at least. We believe in prophecy, there are prophetic warnings about this that I believe are from above."

Rafael Cruz: 'We Will Lose All Our Religious Freedom' If Supreme Court Gains A Liberal Justice

Yesterday on American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues,” Rafael Cruz chatted with Ed Vitagliano about the need to elect his son, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, president of the United States and prevent the appointment of a “liberal justice” to the Supreme Court.

“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court is in a precarious balance,” he said. “One more liberal justice and we lose the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, we lose the right to life and abortion on demand to the point of delivery will become the law of the land, we will lose all our religious freedom.”

Vitagliano agreed, warning that “one more liberal, vote-in-lock-step Supreme Court justice could doom many of the freedoms that we enjoy, First Amendment, Second Amendment, possession of firearms, the right to bear arms.”

Cruz lamented that “pastors have gone AWOL” from the political sphere even though the “Pilgrims came to America seeking the freedom to worship Almighty God and this country was founded on the Word of God and religious freedom,” adding that his son’s presidential bid is motivating conservative Christian pastors to get involved in politics. He told pastors to “open the eyes of people who are in darkness.”

“Vote for a candidate that stands on the purity and the integrity of the Word of God and on the integrity of the Constitution,” he said. “That is the foundation of America. If we do that, we can restore America to that shining city on the hill to the glory of God. I encourage you, if the Body of Christ coalesces around Ted Cruz, a true man that believes in the Constitution and the rule of law, we will see him as the next president of the United States.”

Another Phony Supreme Court 'Precedent'

A couple of days after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky declared that the Supreme Court still had an “obligation” to count the votes Scalia had cast in preliminary conferences on pending cases, even though those votes aren’t always final.

He was particularly interested in Friedrichs, an important labor case that some observers believe will, without Scalia’s vote, end up in a tie that will preserve a lower court decision favorable to unions.

It turns out that von Spakovsky mentioned this idea again in a National Review article last week, even presenting evidence of a “precedent” for counting the votes of deceased justices:

One final note on the terrible tragedy of Justice Scalia’s untimely death: what to do about the pending cases in which the Supreme Court justices already had cast their internal vote on how they would rule on the case. Everyone is assuming that Justice Scalia’s votes have to be discarded because the decisions have not yet been publicly released. But there is precedent for Chief Justice John Roberts to give effect to those votes.

In D. A. Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi (1946), the dissenting opinion by Justice Felix Frankfurter, and joined by Justice Harold Burton, specifically says that the “late Chief Justice [Harlan Stone] participated in the hearing and disposition of this case and had joined in this dissent.” Stone died on April 22, 1946; the date of the Gangi decision is April 29, 1946. Likewise, Justice Joseph Story noted the agreement of the late Chief Justice John Marshall in his dissent in New York v. Miln (1837), writing, “I have the consolation to know that I had the entire concurrence, upon the same grounds, of that great constitutional jurist, the late Mr. Chief Justice Marshall.”

Von Spakovsky’s “precedent” for counting the preliminary vote of a deceased justice is two cases in which the authors of dissents mentioned that a late colleague had been on their side of an issue. In the first, the dissenters mention the views of the late Chief Justice Harlan Stone, but do not appear to count him as an official joiner of the dissent. In the second, the dissenters cite the views of Chief Justice John Marshall, who had died more than a year before the opinion was issued and had already been replaced by Chief Justice Roger Taney — again, apparently citing his approval to make a point rather than as an official vote in the case.

In neither case was the vote of the deceased justice being counted. And in neither case would the vote of the deceased have changed the outcome of the case, as von Spakovsky seems to hope Scalia’s vote would in the Friedrichs case.

It’s almost as if conservatives are pulling Supreme Court “precedents” out of thin air.

Tony Perkins: Obama's 'Cultural Time Bombs' Will Destroy America

On his “Washington Watch” radio program yesterday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins chatted with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, about why the Senate must rebuff any Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama, a conversation which led Perkins to warn about the imminent demise of the U.S.

Perkins urged Senate Republicans to hold the line in their refusal to consider a new justice until next year, claiming that the Senate would be protecting the Constitution by refusing to carry out its constitutional duties.

A new justice appointed by Obama, he warned, will undermine “the fabric of our Constitution and the republic will be at risk.” (Four years ago, Perkins similarly asserted that Obama’s re-election would mean the destruction of America).

Perkins, after praising us here at Right Wing Watch because “I don’t say anything that I don’t want exposed,” repeated his claim that the 2016 election could be the last election ever held in America unless the next president stops Obama’s “cultural time bombs” from exploding:

Every election is important because of what this president, President Barack Hussein Obama, has done in the last seven-plus years, we have moved this nation to a point that the next president cannot be a Republican who simply does business as usual and stops some of the bad stuff. This president went beyond pushing the envelope.

He has planted cultural time bombs that will eventually go off. The next president has to undo those and render them safe and turn this nation around and that means you’re going to have to have an aggressive leader. And if we don’t have that, I’m convinced that as a republic, we won’t long survive. The country as a geographical land mass will continue, but the republic, the 240 years that we’ve had, I’m not sure we’ll have another election.
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Supreme Court Posts Archive

Ari Rabin-Havt, Wednesday 04/20/2016, 11:35am
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released Tuesday led to a slew of headlines reflecting the fact that the majority of Americans want the Senate to do its job and begin working to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. “Democrats are winning the Supreme Court fight over Merrick Garland. Big time,” announced the Washington Post.  By a 22-point margin (52-30) voters would like to see “the Senate vote on [Justice Scalia's] replacement” this year. When the question was first asked in February, this margin was only a single... MORE
Miranda Blue, Tuesday 04/19/2016, 2:03pm
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined a conference call of anti-abortion activists hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List last night to assure them that he would continue to hold the line and refuse to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Also joining the call were Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who delivered an opening prayer. Grassley told the activists that when someone asked him for an update on the nomination last week, he said that “an update would suggest that something has... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 04/18/2016, 2:58pm
As we and others have noted, the Judicial Crisis Network, the primary outside group backing the Senate GOP’s blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, is funded almost entirely by a dark-money group connected to a single family of conservative donors. On Friday, Open Secrets uncovered that the same dark-money network funding JCN is behind another group that is working to oppose Merrick Garland’s nomination: the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). Open Secrets reports that FACT, which styles itself as a right-wing alternative to Citizens... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 04/18/2016, 1:16pm
Today, as thousands of people gathered in front of the Supreme Court to voice their support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a somewhat smaller crowd organized by Tea Party Patriots held forth against the DAPA/DACA actions and urged the Senate not to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. We counted about 20 people at the Tea Party Patriots event at 11 am, shortly before the event’s speeches were scheduled to begin:  The heavily outnumbered protesters carried signs saying “#NoHearingsNoVotes,” “#... MORE
Ari Rabin-Havt, Tuesday 04/12/2016, 3:43pm
Despite holding a “friendly” meeting with Merrick Garland this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley remains adamant that he will not hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. On the ground in Grassley’s home state of Iowa, a clear rift is being exposed between those who are encouraging Grassley’s continued intransigence and the constituents who are calling for their senator to do his job. Notably this week, Keith Uhl, a lawyer in Des Moines who helped manage Grassley’s first campaign for the Senate, asked his former... MORE
Ari Rabin-Havt, Thursday 04/07/2016, 10:39am
In 2005, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, accused Democrats of being beholden to “far left pressure groups” and “out of touch with the vast majority of Americans” when it came to judicial confirmations. Today, Grassley admits that “conservative groups are very much behind” his obstructionism as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has refused to so much as hold a hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. 2005: “The reality is that today's Democrat Party seems to be beholden to far left pressure groups... MORE
admin, Wednesday 04/06/2016, 6:20pm
By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench. Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the... MORE