Carte Blanche: How Will Lincoln Vote on Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee?

Obama will appoint a new court justice in the wake of David Souter's (right) retirement. What will Lincoln do?
President Obama will appoint a new court justice in the wake of David Souter's (right) retirement. What will Sen. Blanche Lincoln do?

(Guest post by Cory Allen Cox.)

When Justice David Souter officially announced last week his retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), speculation immediately began swirling about whom President Obama would name as a replacement.

In reality, speculation about Obama’s SCOTUS picks began soon after his election in November. But Souter’s departure, slated for the beginning of the court’s summer recess, brought home the reality of the judicial legacy that the president shall leave behind.

Undoubtedly Obama has a liberal view of the courts and how the constitution should be interpreted. The president has promised to appoint “somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old.”

One can guess that Obama’s pick will not win accolades from The Federalist Society, the conservative legal group of which I am a member. Based upon the appointment of Attorney General Eric Holder and others, Obama’s nominee will likely hold views and opinions that are vastly different than those of the majority of Arkansans.

One senator to watch in the coming weeks will be Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who’s up for re-election in 2010. Where will she land on Obama’s first SCOTUS nominee?

The importance of any Supreme Court justice is, of course, undeniably important. The SCOTUS may be tied to tradition like no other branch of government, but the court’s decisions can act as catalyst for societal changes like no other. Same-sex marriage, the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, a right to human cloning—these controversial issues will be before the court in the near future. Obama’s likely three SCOTUS appointees will have a great impact on what our country will look like during the next two decades.

What makes this interesting for Arkansans is that with Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic Party and the probable seating of Al Franken in the Senate, the Democrats will have 60 members and 60 votes to override a potential filibuster of any of Obama’s judicial nominees. If Franken is seated before this SCOTUS nomination, the only thing that stands between Obama and a blank check will be the moderate Democrats in the Senate.

Lincoln, facing a 2010 election in a state that overwhelmingly voted for John McCain (leading analysts to designate Arkansas as “the reddest blue state”) may end up being the vote that overrides a filibuster to confirm a justice who will likely be difficult for her constituents to accept.

Lincoln will be placed in the unenviable position of either voting against her party and her president or against the majority of the people she represents. It will be a vote she will not be able to hide from. No matter how she votes, she will make enemies.

If she votes to override a filibuster, she gives ammunition to any potential Republican challenger. If she does not, she will face a potential challenge from her own party’s left wing.

Depending on whom you talk to, Lincoln is either reassured election, come what may, or she has some serious problems. There will be no real challenge to Lincoln from the Democrats. There will be more danger for her from a Republican than from any primary opponent.

A year and seven months is an eternity in politics.  Lincoln knows this. She also knows that she does not want to be become known as “Blank Check Blanche” for giving blanket approval to all of Obama’s priorities.

If events happen just right, this could be the most important vote of Lincoln’s career.

Cory Allen Cox is an attorney practicing law in Little Rock. He was previously legal counsel for Gov. Mike Huckabee and director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas Insurance Department. He was choosen as one of Arkansas Business’ Forty Under Forty in 2008. His legal practice focuses on insurance defense, government regulation and commercial transactions.

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4 thoughts on “Carte Blanche: How Will Lincoln Vote on Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee?

  • May 3, 2009 at 7:22 pm
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    I’m sure she will find a way to support whatever socialist He decides to nominate, and her reasoning will be so stunningly logical that we will lap it up like fresh cream from the farm and gratefully re-elect her.

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  • May 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm
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    Human cloning? For real?
    That’s the new Reublican litmus test?
    Lordy lord, no wonder the Republicans are in so much trouble. Human cloning — truly a deep-seated issue all Arkansans get worked up about.
    Anyways, Judge Sonia Sotomayor come on down.
    She was appointed to the bench by a Republican, the first President Bush, and Sotomayor, as a result, has street cred on both sides of the aisle. She is also likely to be Obama’a leading choice.
    Of course the New Republic ( http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=45d56e6f-f497-4b19-9c63-04e10199a085 ) has already fashiononed a case against her — bonus, as a May 4 post, it is from the future, as of this Sunday night posting — and, it seems the main complaint is she might be Catholic, or maybe not.
    Doesn’t seem to wear her religion on her sleeve.
    Regardless, it is somewhat irnoic to hear Republicans whine and growl about the Supreme Court when seven of the nine were appointed by, wait for it, Republicans.
    And, as far as attaching some deep-seated and dark meaning to Lincoln’s vote, we should probably wait and see who Obama nominates first.

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  • May 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm
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    Blanche’s vote is already a done deal: vote FOR CLOTURE (providing the 60th vote), and then vote against the nominee. It is easy to play both sides of that fence.

    But there is no guarantee that R’s will filibuster. They have never done so in the past. Does the defection of Specter make a difference? Does Sen. Sessions (who was denied a Circuit Court of Appeals seat) now work to deny other judges that opportunity?

    Maybe. The task is to make the judicial appointment issues important to the electorate. Not sure if that is a done deal yet or not.

    But as for Souter, good riddance. The guy was a stealth liberal appointed by GHW Bush, and served as the “reason” to end the nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS when she was unmasked as a liberal. GW Bush PROVED THE POINT of the conservative outcry against Miers when he FIRED HER as WH Counsel and hire Fred Fielding after the D’s took control of the House and the Senate. Souter, in the end, could be said to be indirectly responsible for the nomination of Samuel Alito… the only good Souter ever did anyone.

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  • March 20, 2010 at 4:37 am
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    Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” features a appealing title. It has a taste of bravery mixed with full confidence. You’ll find nothing Pollyanna about this. I might not support every part he tells, but he’s our president, and for me, he creates belief. Which could do more for any region than any amount of backroom deals. Hope gives us energy, and energy sustains us through trying times. Boy, we’ve had them. I’m from West Texas, and I did not vote for Bush. When McCain ran against Obama, I used to be a citizen of Arizona, but I gave audacious hope a chance. The fight for progress and laying the foundations of prosperity is just not over. I’ve seen the quips of those that don’t believe Obama is capable of doing it. But step back a second. Would anyone have most of us fail just to tarnish the star of an incumbent for whom they did not vote? Keeping our priorities straight, let’s work together with our president and build our future.

    Reply

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