Obama Crows for SCOTUS Nominee at U of Chicago

     CHICAGO (CN) – President Barack Obama paid a visit Thursday to the University of Chicago Law School, where he once taught, to decry obstructionist efforts by the Republican Party.
     “Democracy at this moment seems particularly frustrating,” Obama said, addressing 278 students in a town-hall setting that included Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in attendance.
     Bemoaning the increasingly extreme polarization of party politics, Obama said the system “is so broken, so partisan,” that an eminently qualified judge such as his nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court won’t even receive a hearing.
     “Why is it so hard for the guy to just get a hearing and a vote?” Obama said, referring to the GOP stonewalling of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
     Obama’s visit to the university, where he once taught constitutional law, comes a full month after he tapped the chief judge of D.C. Circuit for the seat opened up after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia the month before.
     Whereas judicial nominees usually receive hearings and a vote in less that three months, “the growing attitude inside the Senate that every nominee is a subject of contention,” Obama said.
     With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leading the charge, Republican leadership in the Senate vowed shortly after Scalia’s death not to hold hearings on any nominee the president might tap.
     Obama said it’s perfectly acceptable for Republicans to vote against his nomination but not acceptable that they won’t even go through the process laid out in the Constitution.
     The president warned that the country’s “sharp, partisan polarization,” something that’s come to a head this election season, is “seeping into our judicial system.”
     “Our democracy can’t afford that,” Obama added, pointing to the public’s perception of the courts and the need for their decisions to be consistent and trustworthy.
     The courts should not become “an extension of political parties,” the president said.
     Obama described his nomination process a bit for the audience, saying the basic qualification of a judge is to “have intellectual integrity” and know that following the law is the job.
     “I want them to have lived a little,” Obama added.
     Since “the cases that really matter are the ones with ambiguity,” it takes judge “who understands the way the world works,” Obama said, to “apply judgment grounded in how we actually live.”
     Obama called Garland an “extraordinary judge” and “indisputably qualified.”
     Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, became the latest Republican this week to break away from party to meet with Garland. Both Sens. Mark Kirk and Lindsey Graham have also been outspoken about giving the judge a shot.
     Collins left her sit-down with Garland, urging fellow Republicans to follow her lead. She called it “ironic” if a Democrat wins the presidential election only to put forward a more liberal nominee than Obama chose.
     Garland, who has been widely praised by both parties, grew up in Illinois and worked as a federal prosecutor before his judgeship, making his mark two decades ago. “What a good moment for us to have somebody who’s respected by both sides,” Obama said.

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