The NY Times is today calling for, although not too loudly it seems, a coupling of the two nominees (all bold emphases mine):
Some Democrats have urged that he make his second nomination, for the seat occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, before the Senate takes up Judge Roberts's nomination. That seems reasonable.
The critical importance of "coupling" or "packaging" is described after the break.
More broadly, it is in the President's interest not to couple the process of confirming the successors to Justice O'Connor and the Chief Justice. Democrats have a stronger argument against a conservative successor to the Chief if the nominations are perceived as a package. If the process of confirming a successor for the Chief remains separate and distinct, it is easier for the President to maintain that a conservative appointment to succeed the very conservative William Rehnquist will not move the Court further to the right. So I think that the hearings will likely move forward.
If the neocons are against it, you can bet it's a good thing for us.
The above SCOTUSblog quote was written under assumption that a different person than Roberts would be nominated for Chief Justice, and the writer was wrong about a hearing delay, but they really make no difference.
By using the coupling strategy, Democrats would be seen my main street America as facilitators, not obstructionists, by giving Roberts a fair hearing and an up or down vote, but ONLY if we know who is going to be nominated for Sandra Day O'Connor's vacancy. It's a more-than-fair trade. Let them tell America why it's such a bad idea.
Replacing arch-conservative Rehnquist with his former arch-conservative clerk is not the problem. Replacing Rehnquist AND O'Connor with two Rehnquist/Scalia/Thomas clones is a HUGE problem -- just for starters, say goodbye to the "right to privacy."
Packaging/Coupling are not so much about judicial philosophy as about judicial strategy. Why fight an ideological battle if we can win the "strategy war" before the first shots are fired? So let's not get bogged down in battles over judicial philosophy until the framework is in place for debating the merits of the two nominees. And the framework is, "coupling the two vacancies prior to the start of the hearings." If successfully framed, we also have a much better chance of getting a SC associate justice "in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor," our original objective when she announced her retirement. If the Republicans want Roberts, we must know that Bush has nominated a justice who will maintain the current balance. Smells like victory is within reach if Democratic lawmakers up on Capitol Hill play it smart, stick together, and are successful at coupling the two vacancies.
Check out the NY Times editorial and SCOTUSblog. With the confirmation hearings delay, there's a week to sort it out, so it's BLOGSWARM! time on coupling the two vacancies, folks. Progressives can make a difference. Effective talking points and sample emails/LTEs encouraged, and Defeatist Democrats can kiss my ass and be rated accordingly (DD-Unproductive).
Emails sent last night to the Honorable Howard L. Berman (my congressman in Los Angeles) and Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer:
With only a week remaining before the start of the Roberts confirmation hearings, it is imperative that you and other Democrats help ensure a fair and open process to fill both vacancies on the Supreme Court.
These two vacancies must be coupled together, and Democrats must lead the charge. Americans should know who the nominee will be for Sandra Day O'Connor's vacancy before the Roberts/Chief Justice hearing gets under way. A replacement for Rehnquist in the mold of Rehnquist is one thing, but two arch-conservatives, who will surely tip the balance toward decades of neo-conservatism, are entirely unacceptable. If the Republicans want Roberts, we must know that Bush has nominated a justice "in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor." A threatened filibuster is always in play, and the Republicans, up against the wall with so many negatives right now, will not exercise the Nuclear Option and bring the Senate to a standstill, although they will probably threaten to do so.
The balance must be kept at all cost.
I've never asked for one of my diaries to be recommended. Except this one. Thanks.