More in GOP sug­gest leav­ing 8 on high court

Sen­a­tors say they’ll block any Clin­ton pick to fill va­cancy

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Mary Clare Jalonick

WASH­ING­TON — The Supreme Court has ex­isted with its full com­ple­ment of nine jus­tices for close to 150 years, no mat­ter who oc­cu­pied the White House.

Now some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers sug­gest they would be fine with just eight for four years more rather than have Hil­lary Clin­ton fill the va­cancy.

The court has op­er­ated with eight jus­tices for the past eight months as Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling the Se­nate have blocked con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee Mer­rick Gar­land.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., and his GOP col­leagues have in­sisted that vot­ers should have a say, choos­ing the next pres­i­dent in Tues­day’s elec­tion. The 45th pres­i­dent, ei­ther Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton or Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, would fill the va­cancy cre­ated when Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia died in Fe­bru­ary.

But sev­eral Repub­li­cans have said if the vot­ers elect Clin­ton, they’ll block her nom­i­nees, ef­fec­tively aban­don­ing their ad­vice and con­sent role for her term.

“If Hil­lary Clin­ton be­comes pres­i­dent, I am go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an open­ing on the Supreme Court,” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said in an au­dio record­ing of his meet­ing with GOP vol­un­teers Satur­day.

GOP Sens. John McCain of Ari­zona and Ted Cruz of Texas have also sug­gested block­ing any Clin­ton nom­i­nees. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., may be back­track­ing on vot­ers hav­ing an elec­tion say on the di­rec­tion of the court. said Mon­day night that he “can’t imag­ine” vot­ing for any Clin­ton nom­i­nee though he stopped short of vow­ing to block a pick from a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent.

McCon­nell says the next pres­i­dent will make the nom­i­na­tion to fill the cur­rent va­cancy.

Chuck Grass­ley, chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, has said that the next pres­i­dent should choose the nom­i­nee.

Grass­ley, R-Iowa, said last week that he would hold con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings on a nom­i­nee who­ever wins the pres­i­dency. Asked about the court op­er­at­ing with eight jus­tices, Grass­ley said, “Now that would be con­trary to what I’ve said for seven months.”

The size of the court is set by fed­eral law and has changed over the years, but has been nine jus­tices since 1869.

When va­can­cies arise, they usu­ally are filled within months, if not weeks.

But there have twice been stretches of more than two years where the court was one jus­tice short. An­other six va­can­cies lasted more than a year.

The most re­cent was in 1969 and 1970, when Jus­tice Abe For­tas re­signed and the Se­nate re­jected two of Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s nomi- nees be­fore con­firm­ing Jus­tice Harry Black­mun.

If Clin­ton wins the pres­i­dency, she will have to de­cide whether she wants Gar­land as the nom­i­nee.

Clin­ton could de­cide that she doesn’t want a messy Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion fight to de­fine her first months in of­fice and ask Obama to re-nom­i­nate Gar­land as soon as the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3.

A Demo­cratic Se­nate could try to con­firm him.

If she de­cides she wants to make the nom­i­na­tion her­self, Clin­ton would be un­der pres­sure from lib­eral groups to nom­i­nate some­one to the left of Gar­land.

The bal­ance of the high court has been one of Trump’s most po­tent mes­sages in the elec­tion.

Trump has warned that if Clin­ton is elected, the court will shift to the left.

He’s al­ready sug­gested 21 con­ser­va­tive state and fed­eral judges whom he would con­sider nom­i­nat­ing if he be­comes pres­i­dent, a bid to ease con­cerns among GOP faith­ful about his can­di­dacy.

One of his sug­gested jus­tices is Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who called for Trump to step down af­ter news broke of a 2005 record­ing of Trump mak­ing lewd com­ments about grop­ing women.

SU­SAN WALSH/AP

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