Good Monday Morning July 9th, 2018

Image result for cup of joeOur daily news, hopefully,  gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus a few trends to watch.

So let’s get to it

President Trump announces his nominee to the Supreme Court at 9 p.m. from the East Room of the White House in a dramatic, reality television-style presentation that will kick-start a furious confirmation battle just four months before the midterm elections.

The president said Sunday he had narrowed it down to four finalists. His decision, he said, will be made by noon today.

The White House is ramping up the tension and going to great lengths to keep people guessing and the identity of the nominee concealed until the last possible moment.

The Hill: Trump’s Supreme Court decision energizes the White House.

The Associated Press: In the past, back doors and a tunnel helped Supreme Court nominees remain secret until announced.

If Republicans can stick together and confirm the nominee, as they did with Justice Neil Gorsuch, it could tip the balance of the high court in favor of conservatives for a long time to come.

The stakes:

  • Trump: The president was able to convince skeptical conservatives to back his outsider presidential bid by promising to nominate and confirm conservative judges. He’s done that in the lower courts and now has the opportunity to confirm  a second conservative Supreme Court justice before hitting the two-year mark in the White House. This is a potent political moment for the president, with issues such as abortion, immigration and healthcare coverage potentially hanging in the balance. Trump is making his pick with his own legacy much in mind.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): McConnell is already a hero to many Republicans for refusing to allow former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to get a vote during a presidential election year in 2016, paving the way for Gorsuch. His next challenge is to keep Republicans united for what looks to be a nail-biter in an election year.  Another victory would cement his reputation as a win-at-all-costs leader in the Senate.
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.): Democratic leaders should be concerned about what appears to be a growing grassroots revolt against the establishment. Some liberals have already said they’ll blame Schumer if the nominee is confirmed, even though Democrats can’t filibuster and don’t have any procedural moves that could block the nominee. Schumer will be judged by how many Democrats defect, and the ferocity of the fight he puts up against the odds.
  • Red-state Democrats: The 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection this year in states that Trump won in 2016 look to be in an impossible, no-win situation on confirmation votes. The White House will be giving them the hard sell. Conservative groups will be pressuring them with millions of dollars in ads in their home states. Liberals will be demanding they not buckle. They could lose their seats, or lose Democrats’ standing on key issues for decades to come.

***Breaking this morning*** … the conservative Judicial Crisis Network will launch $1.4 million in new cable and digital ads after the announcement tonight pressuring Democratic senators in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota, and West Virginia to back the president’s nominee … Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were expected election year targets, but Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is not up for reelection until 2020 but represents a deep red state, is a new twist.

The Hill: Trump court battle imperils Senate Dems, House GOP.

The New York Times: Red-state Democrats face “a terrible vote.”

Meanwhile, the campaign to influence the president’s decision is in full gear. Here’s a list The Hill compiled of who top conservatives have endorsed so far.

We’ve been trying to filling you in on the other finalists, but a couple quick notes ahead of the sweepstakes finale tonight…

  • 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 46, the youngest of the group and a favorite among social conservatives, would probably have the hardest time getting confirmed and seems to have lost momentum in recent days.
  • The New York Times reports that McConnell has tried to nudge Trump to tap either Hardiman or 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Kethledge, 51. Some have described Kethledge as “Gorsuch 2.0” but conservative media, such as Breitbart News, have been hammering him in recent days and vowing to sink his nomination over his past immigration decisions.
  • District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was an early favorite, but his ties to former President George W. Bush and his extensive judicial record, including some opinions on health care that have drawn criticism from the right, might make him a risky bet.

The takeaway: Republicans we talk to believe the GOP will ultimately unite behind Trump’s nominee, no matter what, rather than risk pushing the Senate’s confirmation deliberations beyond September, and especially beyond the November elections. The Supreme Court’s next term begins the first Monday in October.

The man making a late charge up the boards?  Judge Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, 53, a Pennsylvania native who was the runner-up to Gorsuch last year. Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, served with Hardiman on the 3rd Circuit and has recommended him to the president. Hardiman was confirmed 95-0 by the Senate for his current post in 2007.

The New York Times: Trump gives a fresh look to Hardiman for Supreme Court.

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