Note to President Obama’s future Supreme Court nominee: get ready for questions about whether it’s legal to mandate health insurance coverage. Conservatives geared up for a fight on the confirmation of Obama’s choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens are increasingly saying they want to make health care the big issue.
There is agitation on the far-right to push these state lawsuits challenging health care reform as the next litmus test for a nominee, especially given the looming midterm elections that are likely to be fought over the sweeping health care overhaul Democrats passed this spring.
“This is the new blood for this public policy battle,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told me in a recent interview.Fitton said he’ll be appealing to tea party activists in an upcoming speech to make the legal challenge to health care part of their fight against whomever Obama nominates. He’ll ask them to take the message to senators from both parties that the confirmation vote will be “a vote as important as Obama care.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee tasked with hearings for the future nominee, already signaled health care will be an issue in his statement about Stevens’ retirement.
Sessions (R-AL) said that in this next confirmation fight, “There is much at stake, as the court’s interpretation of the Constitution in the coming years could significantly affect the implementation of domestic polices approved by the president and Congress over the past year.”
The White House is prepared for the GOP to press the nominee on health care, but an aide told me today in an interview that because it’s not clear how the multi-state lawsuits will materialize when they get to the Supreme Court, Obama does not expect the nominee to get detailed questions about the lawsuits. The aide said Obama indicated he wants a nominee that can understand how legal decisions will affect the lives of everyday Americans, and any possible health care litigation fits into that category.
If this does emerge as a major issue that might make it tougher for Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), to be chosen among Obama’s long list of potential nominees since she’s taken a public stance against her attorney general’s lawsuit.