Chuck Grassley Is Making Sense


Sen. Chuck Grassley, who heads up the Judiciary Committee, took to the floor yesterday to criticize Chief Justice John Roberts, who says that politicized confirmation hearings have caused the public to believe the court itself is politicized. Now, Roberts made those comments two months ago, so I’m not quite sure what prompted Grassley to suddenly get worked up about them. Nonetheless, Grassley is taking a lot of heat for his crazy talk. Let’s listen in:

The Chief Justice has it exactly backwards. The confirmation process doesn’t make the Justices appear political. The confirmation process has gotten political precisely because the court has drifted from the constitutional text, and rendered decisions based instead on policy preferences….In fact, many of my constituents believe, with all due respect, that the Chief Justice is part of this problem.

….As the Chief Justice remarked, although many of the Supreme Court’s decisions are unanimous or nearly so, the Justices tend to disagree on what the Chief Justice called the ‘hot button issues.’ We all know what kinds of cases he had in mind. Freedom of religion, abortion, affirmative action, gun control, free speech, the death penalty, and others.

The Chief Justice was very revealing when he acknowledged that the lesser known cases are often unanimous and the ‘hot button’ cases are frequently 5-4.

But why is that? The law is no more or less likely to be clear in a ‘hot button’ case than in other cases. For those Justices committed to the rule of law, it shouldn’t be any harder to keep personal preferences out of politically charged cases than others….The explanation for these 5-4 rulings must be that in the ‘hot button’ cases, some of the Justices are deciding based on their political preferences and not the law.

That sounds…surprisingly reasonable. It was anger at Supreme Court rulings that turned confirmation hearings political, not the other way around. And Grassley is right that for truly impartial justices, the law shouldn’t be any harder to interpret in hot button cases than in more obscure cases. And yet, hot button cases are very often split along partisan lines.

Now, it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, Grassley’s beef with Roberts is precisely that he didn’t vote on partisan lines when he upheld Obamacare. So he’s not exactly on the moral high ground here. Second, the court has always been political. But for most of its history it was politically conservative and mostly confirmed Republican positions. That changed after World War II, and what conservatives are really upset about is that the Supreme Court now hands down both liberal and conservative rulings. They want it to go back to being an arm of the Republican Party.

So Grassley is hardly presenting a balanced picture here. But he’s a Republican partisan, so why would he? More generally, though, I’d say his view of the Supreme Court is pretty defensible, and certainly more accurate than Roberts’ view. I see no particular crazy talk here.

The Chief Justice was very revealing when he acknowledged that the lesser known cases are often unanimous and the ‘hot button’ cases are frequently 5-4.

But why is that?

The law is no more or less likely to be clear in a ‘hot button’ case than in other cases.

For those Justices committed to the rule of law, it shouldn’t be any harder to keep personal preferences out of politically charged cases than others.

In some cases, the Justices are all willing to follow the law. But in others, where they are deeply invested in the policy implications of the ruling, they are 5-4.

The explanation for these 5-4 rulings must be that in the ‘hot button’ cases, some of the Justices are deciding based on their political preferences and not the law.

– See more at: http://www.publicnow.com/view/F2FDFB07EA2C3F7479ECA11B451EC03E32E4545E?2016-04-06-02:30:30+01:00-xxx6292#sthash.7tuZH0HM.dpuf

As the Chief Justice remarked, although many of the Supreme Court’s decisions are unanimous or nearly so, the Justices tend to disagree on what the Chief Justice called the ‘hot button issues.’ We all know what kinds of cases he had in mind. Freedom of religion, abortion, affirmative action, gun control, free speech, the death penalty, and others.

The Chief Justice was very revealing when he acknowledged that the lesser known cases are often unanimous and the ‘hot button’ cases are frequently 5-4.

But why is that?

The law is no more or less likely to be clear in a ‘hot button’ case than in other cases.

For those Justices committed to the rule of law, it shouldn’t be any harder to keep personal preferences out of politically charged cases than others.

In some cases, the Justices are all willing to follow the law. But in others, where they are deeply invested in the policy implications of the ruling, they are 5-4.

The explanation for these 5-4 rulings must be that in the ‘hot button’ cases, some of the Justices are deciding based on their political preferences and not the law.

– See more at: http://www.publicnow.com/view/F2FDFB07EA2C3F7479ECA11B451EC03E32E4545E?2016-04-06-02:30:30+01:00-xxx6292#sthash.7tuZH0HM.dpuf

As the Chief Justice remarked, although many of the Supreme Court’s decisions are unanimous or nearly so, the Justices tend to disagree on what the Chief Justice called the ‘hot button issues.’ We all know what kinds of cases he had in mind. Freedom of religion, abortion, affirmative action, gun control, free speech, the death penalty, and others.

The Chief Justice was very revealing when he acknowledged that the lesser known cases are often unanimous and the ‘hot button’ cases are frequently 5-4.

But why is that?

The law is no more or less likely to be clear in a ‘hot button’ case than in other cases.

For those Justices committed to the rule of law, it shouldn’t be any harder to keep personal preferences out of politically charged cases than others.

In some cases, the Justices are all willing to follow the law. But in others, where they are deeply invested in the policy implications of the ruling, they are 5-4.

The explanation for these 5-4 rulings must be that in the ‘hot button’ cases, some of the Justices are deciding based on their political preferences and not the law.

– See more at: http://www.publicnow.com/view/F2FDFB07EA2C3F7479ECA11B451EC03E32E4545E?2016-04-06-02:30:30+01:00-xxx6292#sthash.7tuZH0HM.dpuf