The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Scramble over Supreme Court vacancy continues


Thursday was supposed to be a usual meeting for the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider judicial nominees for lower courts. Such a topic rarely garners a national following and can end up buried in endless minutes of C-SPAN footage.

But in the first meeting of the committee after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death became like annual Festivus tradition. Senators on both sides of the aisle aired their grievances and positioned themselves for the political fights to come.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has a key spot in the discussion on who will fill the Supreme Court vacancy, lashed back on White House for floating the name of a fellow Iowa for the nation’s highest court in the land. The six-term incumbent characterized the process so far as charade chock full of faux outrage

“Regardless of what some are willing to admit publicly, everybody knows any nominee submitted in the middle of this presidential campaign isn’t getting confirmed,” Grassley said. “Everybody. The White House knows it. Senate Democrats know it. Republicans know it. Even the press knows it. “

Earlier in the week, Eight Circuit Judge Jane Kelly was raised in Indiana but in the mid-1990s became an assistant federal public defender in Cedar Rapids. The *New York Times* reported earlier this week that Kelly, who also taught at the University of Iowa Law School, is being vetted as a possible nominee.

Grassley serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would be the site of confirmation hearings for a nominee.

But in an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans, almost unanimously, have refused to consider whomever President Obama nominates. Grassley and other Senate Republicans have said the American people should get a say on who the next justice would be through the presidential election.

RELATED: GOP sticks to no Supreme Court hearings

To bolster their point, Republicans have turned to Democrats many of whom openly mused about actions similar to what the Senate GOP is doing right now. In particular, a speech by then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden on the Senate in 1992 has been unearthed and refashioned as the “Biden rule.”

Biden, who at the time was also chair of the Judiciary Committee, stressed before the Supreme Court ended it term that then President George H.W. Bush who was running for reelection should not be allowed to fill a vacancy on the court if one occurred. Such a scenario never presented itself. Bush went on to lose to then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in the general election.

“Republicans are quick to cite comments from Vice President Biden and others about hypothetical situations,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the committee. “But the fact is that we have taken action every time there has been a Supreme Court vacancy. Our actions will continue to speak louder than any words.”

In further retort Democrats have trotted out past words from Grassley.

This fight over words, sometimes decades old, underline what President Obama and senators on both sides have acknowledged: neither party has been completely pure in its record when it comes to considering judicial nominees.

But since confirmation hearings have become standard in the 1950s, every Supreme Court nominee whose name has not withdrawn has received a hearing.

“All of us have dirty hands none of us are perfect on how we handle judicial nominations,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Al., said during the meeting. But Sessions then stressed that his party has a better overall record.

Leahy and other Senate Democrats met with White House staff later in the day. They discussed the vacancy, but not specific names or a timetable on when such an action would occur.

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