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Obama's Supreme Court Pick: Battle Lines Already Forming

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Not 12 hours since news broke that Justice David Souter would retire from the Supreme Court at term's end and already the battle lines over his replacement are being drawn.

A memo being sent around by conservatives, obtained by Ben Smith, targets three of the likely Obama picks for the Court, both for their judicial philosophies and professional experience.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eagerly pointing out that Barack Obama, while in the Senate, voted to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the court.

Pointing to the president's own past procedural maneuvers would seem like a sufficient justification for the Republican Party to return the favor this go around. But there are two potential problems if the GOP goes down this road. For starters, they lack the votes to stop the nomination in the Senate -- although there may be fine-print that allows them to hold up an appointment in the Judiciary Committee.

Additionally, many of the Republicans who could play an obstructionist role are on the record decrying the use of the filibuster on judicial nominees. As collected by Media Matters Action Network, here are a few of those choice quotes that seem likely to be mentioned when (rather, if) a feisty Supreme Court fight emerges in the weeks or months ahead.

Orrin Hatch (R-UT -- and Judiciary Committee member)
"All we are asking is the 214-year tradition of the Senate that judicial nominees not be filibustered be followed. That has been the tradition of the Senate up until President Bush became President. All we are asking is that every one of these qualified nominees who have reached the floor receive an up-or-down vote. That is all we are asking." [Senate Floor Speech, 4/27/05]

Chuck Grassley (R-IA -- and Judiciary Committee member)
"History has proven the wisdom of having the President place judges with the support of the majority of the Senate. That process ensures balance on the court between judges placed by Republican Presidents and those placed by Democrat Presidents. The current obstruction led by Senate Democratic leaders threatens that balance. It's time to make sure all judges receive a fair vote on the Senate floor." [Grassley.Senate.gov, "Talking Judges to Death," 5/8/05]

John Cornyn (R-TX -- and Judiciary Committee member)
"I believe, about the process of reestablishing the precedent of majority rule that had prevailed for 214 years in the Senate, that would say any President's nominees, whether they be Republican or Democrat, if they have the support of a majority of the Senate, will get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Senators who believe these nominees should be confirmed can vote for them and those who believe they should not be confirmed can vote against them." [Senate Floor Speech, 5/24/05]

Mitch McConnell (R-KY -- Senate Minority Leader)
"Because of the unprecedented obstruction of our Democratic colleagues, the Republican conference intends to restore the principle that, regardless of party, any President's judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote. I know that some of our colleagues wish that restoration of this principle were not required. But it is a measured step that my friends on the other side of the aisle have unfortunately made necessary. For the first time in 214 years, they have changed the Senate's 'advise and consent' responsibilities to 'advise and obstruct.' [...]Given those results, many of us had hoped that the politics of obstruction would have been dumped in the dustbin of history. Regretfully, that did not happen." [Senate Floor Speech, 5/19/05]

Jeff Sessions (R-AL -- and Judiciary Committee member)
"Since the founding of the Republic, we have understood that there was a two-thirds supermajority for ratification and advice and consent on treaties and a majority vote for judges. That is what we have done. That is what we have always done. But there was a conscious decision on behalf of the leadership, unfortunately, of the Democratic Party in the last Congress to systematically filibuster some of the best nominees ever submitted to the Senate. It has been very painful." [Senate Floor Speech, 5/23/05]

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