Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist. He blogs at A plain blog about politics.
And so, we have a new Supreme Court Justice, as expected. Final count: 63-37. Five Republicans and one Democrat defected.
I didn’t post (or tweet) much during the floor debate, because, well, it was pretty dull. Look, this isn’t a partisan blog, so unlike
Meanwhile, the real question here is what will happen in 2011-2012. As I said, five Republican Senators -- Collins, Graham, Lugar, Snowe, and the retiring Judd Gregg -- defected; Ben Nelson also defected, but said he would vote for cloture. The obvious question is: what would have happened if there were only 52 or 53 Democrats in the Senate, or for that matter 48 or 49. Elena Kagan appears, by all accounts, to be a mainstream Democratic nominee; she certainly wasn’t on the short list of liberal advocates, although she was broadly acceptable to most of them. Can any Obama nominee be confirmed to the Supreme Court next year? The problem here is that compromise is almost impossible to imagine over the Court. Does anyone believe that Thune, DeMint, and the other Senators who may be running for president next year could accept any nominee from Barack Obama? And, after Bob Bennett and the rest of the primaries this year, does anyone believe that more than a handful of Republicans will stand up to the threat of a primary?
I don’t really expect a full-blown train wreck over the budget, or over any must-pass legislation next year, no matter how well the GOP does in November. But if there’s a Supreme Court opening, and if the Democrats hold fewer than, say, 55 seats in the Senate, I think the odds of a real train wreck, a total stalemate, have to be well over 50/50. And, again, if the Democrats fall below 55 Senators, I’ll be surprised if the Senate manages to confirm very many