April 11th, 2010
11:44 AM ET
13 years ago

Senators signal bruising Supreme Court confirmation battle


A Democratic and Republican senator sparred Sunday over the impending confirmation process for President Obama's second Supreme Court pick. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(CNN) - (CNN) - Two leading senators on the Judiciary Committee, which will consider President Barack Obama's upcoming Supreme Court nominee, signaled Sunday that a bruising fight is likely.

Committee chairman Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, called the current conservative-leaning Supreme Court the most activist he had seen, while ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama wouldn't rule out a filibuster if Obama nominates what the GOP perceives to be a liberal activist.

Appearing on the NBC program "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Leahy said Obama wants the replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens to represent all Americans, rather than any particular ideology.

"This is a very, very activist court, the most activist court in my lifetime," Leahy said, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling that lifted
restrictions on corporate spending on elections.

Leahy called for both parties to "set aside politics" and "stop listening to single interest groups on the far right and left" in order to avoid a bitter confirmation process.

Sessions responded that the current Supreme Court was not activist, but instead had "faithfully" tried to follow the Constitution.

Asked about a possible filibuster, Sessions said it would depend on the nominee.

"If it's somebody ... clearly outside the mainstream, then I think every power should be utilized to protect the Constitution," Sessions said.

Leahy said he doubted a GOP filibuster would occur, calling such a move the "lazy" way out of having to vote yes or no on a nominee.

Asked about a timetable, Leahy said he expected the confirmation process to be concluded by the end of summer and the new justice to be installed in time for the Supreme Court's new session next fall.

Other senators interviewed Sunday echoed Leahy's assessment that a filibuster was unlikely. On the ABC program "This Week," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Obama was likely to select a strong candidate without any clear ideological ties.

"What you want is somebody who will follow the law, not make the law, not impose their ideology, if they're far right, far left, on the law itself," Schumer said. "If they're in the mainstream, you don't have to agree with all of their views to vote for them."

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, told the same program that he agreed with Schumer's assessment, saying: "What I object to and I think my colleagues would object to is somebody that comes in with preconceived notions about how particular cases should be decided."

"That's why I think both Chuck and I would agree that it is unlikely that there would be a filibuster, except if there is an extraordinary circumstance," Kyl said, but added in reference to a filibuster: "I'm never going to take it off the table."

Updated: 3:57 p.m.

Filed under: Jeff Sessions • Patrick Leahy • Supreme Court
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Andy from NYC

    I think it is time for an Asian American to be nominated.

    April 11, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. Marcus

    'Sessions responded that the current Supreme Court was not activist, but instead had "faithfully" tried to follow the Constitution.'

    Emminent Domain, that ruling that allowed a guy to rent Hollywood movies that HE edited according to HIS beliefs of right and wrong (copyright laws anyone?), that last ruling letting corporate spendings run free in election periods...

    Well, the 1st Ammendment says that anyone has the right to have an opinion about any and everything, and I strongly disagree with yours Mr. Sessions.

    April 11, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Jean

    The party of NO is at it again. Why don't they wait until they have someone to object to before they react.

    April 11, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. bennie new york

    I've heard several Republicans say they want Obama to nominate a "mainstream" judge. I know "mainstream" in their neck of the woods is different than "mainstream" here in upstate NY, but I feel compelled to point out that national polls show that a majority of Americans are pro-choice and in favor of gay marraige. By that definition, Obama shouldn't have any trouble nominating a mainstream judge.

    April 11, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. Larry

    I guess we're going to go thru this again with Sessions.

    With all his rhetoric and commentary during the Sotomayor hearings she was still confirmed.

    Keep talking Sessions. Maybe you'll bore yourself bore yourself out of office.

    April 11, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. catmomtx

    So, Republicans are already telling President Obama what to do and warning him that if he doesn't do what they say then they will continue to make his life and the country's life miserable.

    Now I remember Republicans saying that elections have consequences. One of those consequences is that the President gets to chose who he wants in his cabinet and on the Supreme Court if the opportunity arises. How quickly they change their tune.

    What is funny though is watching the media and the Republicans begin their speculation and their trashing of potential candidates before the President even comes up with his choice. No wonder people don't want to be bothered serving their government.

    April 11, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. The Jury of 5

    Who gives a rat's ass what Jeff Sessions says or thinks or threatens to do? Republicans do not count or matter at all. Piss on Jeff Sessions. He is a loser from a state where you need shots and a passport just to enter. The activist Jury of 5 just ruled that foreing nationals can donate as much cash as they please towards any political cause they want in the U.S. This is F^%$ed up! Obama must choose someone who give the middle finger to the Republicans.

    April 11, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Chris

    "Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama wouldn't rule out a filibuster if Obama nominates what the GOP perceives to be a liberal activist." – Unfortunately the Republicans perceive anyone who isn't a strident Neo-Con as a liberal activist.

    April 11, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. jd

    With Obama's record on blocking judges as a Senator, I think Leahy should avoid talking about what is lazy. Unless he's saying Obama was a lazy activist as a Senator. Obama voted against Chief Justice Roberts after openly stating he was perfectly qualified.

    April 11, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Jeremy@Dallas

    I said it before. The answer from Republican party that I once adored is FIRM NO. Even if Obama appointed far right judge or Sarah Palin/Boehner or any other republican luminary who qualifies,there will be NO and a filibuster. Why are they promising to oppose a nominee yet to mentioned? This is childish high school politics where students dislike maths class yet to be taught.

    April 11, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Filibuster talk already? First with Newt in charge they shut down the government (a terrorist act?) and now it's "No, no, no..." Grow up Republicans and learn to tolerate those that are different than you.

    April 11, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. Edmond

    Filibuster talk already? First with Newt in charge they shut down the government (a terrorist act?) and now it's "No, no, no..." Grow up Republicans and learn to tolerate and work with those that are different than you.

    April 11, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Squigman

    As long as I can go to the polls and vote every republican out of office, I'm not complaining. I hope I never see another republican elected to represent corporate interest, and claim to be representing the people. The nation can not, and should not be expected to endure this kind of deception, lies.

    April 11, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    To today's republicans, a John Birch Society nominee would be considered too far left.

    April 11, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. abe

    Mr. Sessions time has changed as well as our society. We cannot at all times think conservative ideology. We need a judge that has worldly views and understands the thinking tank of our ever changing society. So your idea of a filibuster is your way of derailing a process and you should stop this nonsense. You might come From Alabama a conservative state but I want him to remember Alabama does not represent the whole country. We are an ever changing society and we need judges that embrace the real world. It is also time to elect another Black, Latino or Asian decent to the court.

    April 11, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Oregon calling

    Take back America, VOTE so that we may have a decent, compassionate SC Judge.

    Knowing that ALL Republicans in Congress will vote lock step against President Obama, make sure to think about your vote and watch what tactics will be used to block any person that is not very conservative.

    We need someone that understands actual AVERAGE American people. Look outside the box and perhaps look for some one that is intelligent, compassionate and can reach the BROADER middle.

    I encourage any American that believes that they have what it takes to be a SC Justice to step up the plate and submit your application for this job.

    People on both sides say that they want "THEIR" country back but will "WE THE PEOPLE" stand behind an AVERAGE American and let their voices to be heard to thier Representative in both houses of Congress.


    April 11, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. addon

    Are there that many completely stupid americans that will bring the Republicans back to power, by acting like 10 year olds?

    The republicans have done nothing but ruin our country and we would rather vote them back into power than tell them to grow up?

    April 11, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. katiec

    The republicans will do their usual obstructing, preening in front of the cameras, spouting lies and indignition.
    They are truly becoming our country's most dangerous domestic terrorists. Out to destroy everything for their personal gains, party goals and win at any cost.

    April 11, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. normajean

    Our president is about to fill a recently vacated seat in the Supreme Court. He has said nothing as yet about the people who might be appointed. He has not named any of his choices and yet the Republicans are already letting it be known that they are planning a war to keep this choice out of the Court. This is the extreme in arrogance on the part of the repubs. This is the way they have been playing the game for almost two years.If they think the American people are going to stand still for this they are in for a surprise in the coming elections and particulary in 2012. Personally I've had enough and wouldn't vote for a repub for dog catcher.I know a lot of people that are saying the same.

    April 11, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Annie, Atlanta

    If we see any more right leaning justices, we risk becoming the Corporate States of America. I'm not so sure we aren't there already after the Citizens decision.

    Roberts and Alito were the worst appointees that ever happened to the court. They appear to view corporations as good and people as something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe. And legislating from the bench in lieu of interpreting – no problem.

    Decisions have consequences, and they don't have our best interests in mind while rendering them. Scary stuff.

    April 11, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Perusing-through


    The Republican Obstructionist don't know who will be the next Supreme Court pick, but they are confident they will vote "HE11 N0".

    April 11, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. Annie, Atlanta

    jd – I wish then Senator Obama had been successful in blocking Roberts. The recent decision in the Citizens United case has been described as legislating from the bench. They are only there to interpret. Legislation is Congress' job. This is not good to have Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments who favor corporations over people.

    Just wait until the next upcoming election. We now have corporations able to pour unlimited funds into these things, swaying us with nonstop commercials. And this includes foreign corporations. I say we stop watching political commercials until such time as this mess can be overturned or legislated out of existence.

    April 11, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Ken in NC

    Republicans are smart, forward thinking people. They posses the power to see into the future. They already know that the President is going to nominate a person that will cause them to filibuster. WOW soooooo smart. They are amounting a filibuster against an unknown person. I mean in what other country on earth does a party fight against a phantom appointee?

    April 11, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. Sue

    If Obama tries to appoint an activist judge to the Supreme Court-–the Republicans BETTER do everything/anything to prevent it from happening.

    And, the Republicans will have the majority in the country supporting them for doing so.

    April 11, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  25. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Considering that President Obama has not yet announced a nominee, it seems premature for the GOP to throw down the gauntlet on how they're going to approach the confirmation process. The Republicans really are a bunch of ornery, old "sods".

    To echo Andy from NYC ... its time for a nominee who is Asian American or Native American ... but mostly, the nominee needs to be fully qualified and keeps a balance of ideas on the court.

    April 11, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |