Obama: Senate Republicans' decision to oppose SCOTUS nomination 'dangerous'

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Obama: Republicans Risk Eroding Public Morale Over Supreme Court Row

President Obama is growing increasingly frustrated with Senate Republicans' refusal to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, his pick for the Supreme Court following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And during an appearance at the University of Chicago on Thursday, Obama made the case for conservatives to end their unprecedented blockade of Garland and get on with the nomination process.

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But more than that, he foreshadowed a future, stemming from conservatives' insistence that the next president choose the new justice, in which the nomination process becomes entirely political -- "a majoritarian exercise of who controls the presidency and who controls the Senate."

"Nobody has plausibly made the argument that this is not the kind of person we'd want on the Supreme Court," Obama said during an question-and-answer session with faculty and students. "The question then becomes: Why is it so hard for the guy just to get a hearing and a vote?"

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Obama: Senate Republicans' decision to oppose SCOTUS nomination 'dangerous'
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, shakes hands with with President Barack Obama as Vice President Joe Biden looks on as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, center, introduce Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, walks out with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
This photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit shows Chief Judge Merrick Garland in 2013, in Washington. (U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit via AP)
FILE - In this May 1, 2008 file photo, Judge Merrick B. Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, he is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. The leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, and Diane Wood, 59. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Deputy U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland, left, looks on as interim U.S. Attorney Patrick Ryan answers questions during a news conference Thursday May 18, 1995, following a preliminary hearing in El Reno, Okla., for Terry Nichols. A magistrate ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Nichols in prison. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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He went on, "what you have here is, I think, a circumstance in which those in the Senate have decided that placating [their] base is more important than upholding their constitutional and institutional rules in our democracy in a way that is dangerous." He warned that, if he's succeeded by a Republican, Democrats in the senate might retaliate against any future nominee by blocking them in kind, which could leave the seat empty for a prolonged period.

Americans are already beginning to see the Supreme Court through a partisan lens, and if the nomination process gets even messier, Obama said it could "erode the integrity of the judicial branch." "The courts will be just an extension of our legislatures and our elections and our politics," he said. "At that point, people lose confidence in the ability of the courts to fairly adjudicate cases and controversies."

Senate Republicans, of course, deny that their refusal to acknowledge Obama's nominee is about politics at all. But in a speech to the Senate on Tuesday, Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, equated "following the law" with "advancing conservative policy." "Justices appointed by Republicans are generally committed to following the law," he said. "But some of the Justices appointed by Republicans often don't vote in a way that advances conservative policy." He went on:

If we want the confirmation process to be less divisive, if we want the public to have more confidence that the Justices haven't exceeded their constitutional role, then the Justices need to demonstrate that in politically sensitive cases, their decisions are based on the Constitution and the law and not on their political preferences.

No doubt the Republican base -- the one Obama fears Grassley and others are seeking to placate -- would agree.

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