Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics of Extremism. From his Q & A with Isaac Chotiner for Slate:
So why do you think fighting over judicial nominees has become so fraught? Does it go beyond mere partisan rancor?--Marshal Zeringue
As the laws that pass Congress tended to be vaguer in nature—because that is the only way you can build the coalitions—they would pass a lot of the buck on to the courts. The courts were perfectly happy to intervene, or in some cases had to intervene. It became increasingly clear to political actors that majorities in Congress could come and go. Presidencies could come and go. Judges would stay on for a much longer period of time. We saw a whole set of changes including the kinds of people nominated for judgeships by presidents. They wanted to make sure they were very predictable, no great surprises. It became even truer with Republicans as the Federalist Society emerged and saw this as their opportunity to dramatically alter policy in the country.
Starting with Clinton, who nominated a bunch of people who by every standard were moderate, the Republicans began to look at this as slots. They wanted to delay and obstruct as much as they could because they wanted to keep the slots for their president. They were quite effective in that. Of course, we got a lot of judges then that came through with Bush....[read on]