Republicans are openly threatening a constitutional crisis by blocking any Supreme Court appointed by a Democratic president “indefinitely.” Last month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shocked the political world by declaring the GOP will block anyone Hillary Clinton picks to the Supreme Court. Now, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has indicated that Republicans will seek to block a Democratic president from filling the vacant Supreme Court seat “indefinitely.”
With Scalia gone and the Republican Senate in no hurry to replace him, the court’s eight justices are split evenly along ideological lines. That four-four tie has left the court unable to settle some contentious cases, reverting to the lower court’s ruling when the justices are deadlocked.
Cruz argues that there is “precedent” to limiting the Supreme Court to just eight justices. But an indefinite GOP blockade of a Supreme Court nominee would almost certainly lead to an erosion in the Senate’s supermajority requirement.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has already suggested lowering the bar for Supreme Court nominee from 60 votes to a simple majority. Under Reid, Democrats changed the Senate rules to allow all nominees but Supreme Court appointments to be approved by a majority vote.
Cruz was unlikely to vote for any Democratic nominee given his conservative ideology, but his remarks could indicate a broader plot within the GOP to halt Democrats from shifting the court’s balance to the progressive side.
Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, Justice Clarence Thomas lamented that the broken confirmation process was a sign of larger problems.
When asked about the open seat, Thomas replied, “At some point, we have got to recognize that we’re destroying our institutions.”
“We have decided,” he said according to Politico, “that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don’t think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.”