Supreme Court Nominations

Conservative groups plan 'robust' ad campaign to get Senate Dems to support Trump SCOTUS nominee

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A coordinated effort by a number of conservative groups includes buying advertisements to push moderate Democrats—up for re-election in states that went for Donald Trump in the presidential election—to support Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Politico reports.

The Judicial Crisis Network will spend up to $10 million after having spent $7 million in efforts to help prevent the Obama administration from filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year, Politico reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the effort.

“We are preparing to launch the most robust campaign for a Supreme Court nominee in history, and we will force vulnerable Senators up for re-election in 2018 like Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill to decide between keeping their Senate seats or following Chuck Schumer’s liberal, obstructionist agenda,” JCN’s chief counsel, Carrie Severino, told Politico.

The effort will include paid advertising, as well as various means of promotion and publicity, such as so-called earned media, using research, grassroots efforts and social media to spread the message, sources told Politico.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently promised his caucus’s opposition to nominees not in the “mainstream,” and that he will push to keep from filling the seat at all. Republicans will need at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster on a nominee for the high court.

“Any vulnerable Senator who signs up for Schumer’s obstructionist strategy will pay a heavy price in 2018,” Severino said. Likely targets for negative ad campaigns include Democratic senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

The conservative coalition’s effort includes CRC Public Relations for messaging development, along with a number of Republican operatives, as well as The Tea Party Patriots, America Rising Squared and the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.

But Democrats face expectations to push back in kind against the Republicans’ refusal—led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—to even consider an Obama nominee for the Scalia vacancy. Before his recent retirement, former Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats should fight over Supreme Court nominations, saying: “If you get some wacky nominees coming to the Supreme Court, senators better do everything in their power to stop them.”

In 2013, Democrats, frustrated with Republicans in blocking executive branch and judicial nominations, changed the filibuster rule so that a simple majority, rather than a 60-member supermajority, could cut off debate on nominees and move them through, the New York Times reported at the time.

It was a radical change—which stopped short of including Supreme Court nominations—that many said at the time would come back to haunt Democrats. Republicans have threatened to make a similar change to the rule for Supreme Court nominees.

Politico reports that McConnell and Schumer had private discussions about the issue, and last year Schumer was asked if McConnell will follow through on it: “We’ll see. We didn’t do it.”

Soon after his election, Trump in effect addressed concerns of some conservatives about whether he will choose a nominee favored by them, issuing two lists totaling 21 potential nominees to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

“He put together a thoughtful and dynamic list that managed to assuage the concerns of a lot of conservatives,” John G. Malcom, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies previously told the ABA Journal.

More recently, there have been reports that Trump has winnowed that list to fewer than 10, according to various reports. Two judges most mentioned are Judge Diane Sykes, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge William Pryor, of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hat Tip: How Appealing.

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