This is the starting point for the analysis of the Merrick Garland nomination. There is no way, at the point, to make a comprehensive guess as to the ultimate outcome. There are so many variables that predictions are problematic to say the least. Still, I hope to look at some of more likely variables to try to get an idea of the ultimate outcome as quickly as possible.
Before any predictions can be made, it is important to construct a timeline that shows as many critical points as possible. Below are some of the key dates of upcoming events that might have an effect on the nomination of Merrick Garland.
- Merrick Garland nominated: March 16, 2016
- Senate convenes: April 4, 2016 (19 days post nomination)
- Senate summer recess begins: July 16, 2016 (122 days post nomination)
- Republican convention starts: July 18, 2016 (124 days post nomination)
- Democratic convention starts: July 25, 2016 (131 days post nomination)
- Senate convenes after summer recess: September 6, 2016 (174 days post nomination)
- Senate fall recess begins: October 8, 2016 (206 days post nomination)
- General election: November 8, 2016 (237 days post nomination)
In addition to dates, it is also important to know the players that will be involved with the decision making process. Even if we limited the list to only the players directly involved, it would be a lost so long as to be useless. I am going to start with some of the most obvious players and add further players to it if they present themselves.
The known players:
- Barrack Obama
- Orrin Hatch
- Chuck Grassley
- Senate Judiciary Committee
- 11 Republicans
- 9 Democrats
- Mitch McConnell
- Full Senate
- 54 Republicans
- 44 Democrats
- 2 Independents caucusing with Democrats.
- Presidential candidates
- various special interest groups
Taken from the Tentative 2016 Legislative Schedule:
As of today, March 18, 2016, there are 18 (full or mostly full) weeks that the Congress is scheduled to be in session before the November election. There are a total of 33 (full) weeks before the November elections.
As a good place to start, I am going to use the nomination process of Clarence Thomas from 1991. His testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee still holds the record in the number of hours taken. His nomination was also contested, wasn’t split along party lines, and required delving deeply into his background.
Clarence Thomas was originally nominated President George H. W. Bush on July 1, 1991. He was ultimately confirmed by the full Senate on October 15, 1991. The total duration of the nomination process for Clarence Thomas was 107 days.
President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland on March 16, 2016.
- President Obama withdraws the nomination.
- Merrick Garland withdraws himself from the nomination.
- Mitch McConnell doesn’t send the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. (what’s the probability?)
- Chuck Grassley doesn’t let the nomination out of committee. (Possible?)
- Mitch McConnell doesn’t schedule the nominee for a floor debate.
- A majority of Republicans reject the nomination.
- A majority of the Senate accept the nomination, but a minority or Republicans filibuster. (Possible?)
- Mitch McConnell pulls the nomination from consideration due to lack of Republican support.
- Some unknown that sets a new precedent.