Post-Souter Battle, Day One
First of all, let's put into some perspective the fact that David Souter's replacement will have long-term importance but not much near-term impact on shifting the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. Next session, no matter who is in Souter's chair, they'll still try to phase out the Voting Rights Act and use bizarre logic to meet their ideological goals (does Scalia know that HE was voted in unanimously? Is there "something wrong there"? You decide). So this isn't a completely consequential near-term pick.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Vice President Biden can throw a dart at a board in making his selection. And of course, it means that no matter who Obama picks, the hard right will demonize him or her as a commune-living hippie phreek who wants to personally deliver abortions from the bench. For the record, here's a fairly representative list of possibles.
The replacements: So who are the possibilities to replace Souter? Here’s our list, per NBC’s Williams, that we unveiled back in February, after we learned about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pancreatic cancer: Johnnie Rawlinson (9th Circuit Court of Appeals, African American woman), Leah Ward Sears, (chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, African American woman), Sonia Sotomayor (2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Hispanic woman), Kim McLane Wardlaw, 9th Circuit, Hispanic woman), Diane Wood, (7th Circuit, woman, knows Obama from her time teaching at the University of Chicago), Jennifer Granholm (Michigan governor, woman), Merrick Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, Deval Patrick (Massachusetts governor, African American, Obama friend), Cass Sunstein (University of Chicago law professor, Obama friend).
I agree with Mark Halerpin, how dare there be so few white men on that list. The MAN's been keeping us Caucasian males down for too long. A world with a 7-2 male/female split on the Supreme Court ain't a world I want to live in.
Obama has generally offered good statements on his ideal Supreme Court justices, particularly in saying he wanted to find someone who could empathize with those "less powerful." There are supposed to be four "conservatives" and four "liberals" on the Court, but in reality you have four on the hard right and four on the center-left, and when it comes to corporate law the playing field is pretty much entirely tilted toward the business-friendly. So Obama would do well to change that dynamic and really start to shift the ideological balance somewhat.
However, there will be one major obstacle to getting a nominee through Congress. Despite the potential for 60 votes, despite the party switch of Arlen Specter - in fact, BECAUSE of the switch of Arlen Specter - getting nominees out of the Senate Judiciary Committee under current rules will be a practical impossibility, it appears.
Check out the Senate Judiciary Committee Rules:
IV. BRINGING A MATTER TO A VOTE
The Chairman shall entertain a non-debatable motion to bring a matter before the Committee to a vote. If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a roll call vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority.
Your current lineup of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Which of these fellas do you think will be ready to provide the necessary one vote from the minority to bring things to a vote in the committee on tough questions now?
Don't think they wouldn't relish bottling up an Obama nominee in committee, and using all the lies sure to be served up by the Mighty Wurlitzer and the conservative noise machine to justify it. This rule can change if there's a new organizing resolution, but in order to make that bullet-proof, all 60 Democrats would need to be seated, and willing to vote in favor. Giving even more reason for the minority to block Al Franken. Giving Specter even more power should he decide to wank and vote against a new resolution.
In the Senate, there's ALWAYS a way to obstruct.