REUTERS: Obama Stuns America And Considers Nominating This Republican For Supreme Court Justice

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There is speculation this afternoon that President Obama may choose former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican and former federal judge, to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.

While such a move would help focus attention on the intransigence of Senate Republicans who refuse to consider anyone Obama names, the choice of a centrist is bound to disappoint progressives who had hoped to swing the balance of the court in a more liberal direction.

Reuters posted a summary of the rumors this afternoon.

‘Sandoval met on Monday in the U.S. Capitol for about 30 minutes with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid asked the governor whether he would be interested in being considered for the high court job, according to the source, who asked not to be identified.

“He said he was interested,” the source said of Sandoval, adding that ‘a number of people are being checked out’ for the job.

Sandoval, who was in Washington for a National Governors’ Association meeting, also spoke to Reid by telephone last week, the source said.’

Although Sandoval opposed the Affordable Care Act, he broke with most GOP governors by agreeing to expand medicaid in his state. A pro-choice Latino, Sandoval also declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage “no longer defensible” and ordered the state Attorney General’s office to stop defending it in federal courts. He also supported comprehensive immigration reform until it was killed by the GOP Senate.

Despite a pro-gun stance, Sandoval has hardly been a doctrinaire right winger in his performance as governor. Conservative anti-tax torchbearer Grover Norquist has reportedly called Sandoval “a rat” for failing to do away with a tax increase that he had pledged to remove and for raising taxes to pay for education.

Touted as a possible vice presidential pick in 2012, Sandoval has come under increasing fire from fellow Republicans for his heretical views, with the Ted Cruz campaign even refusing to engage him for an endorsement.

‘Brian Sandoval is a total piece of toxic waste. His endorsement would literally be wasted,’ said one Cruz adviser closely familiar with the campaign’s strategy in Nevada. ‘Sandoval would be the kiss of death for any conservative.’

‘What’s odd is that even among governors, usually you just embrace your fellow Republicans—Reagan’s 11th commandment,’ says John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who follows state policy and has been tracking the developments in the Sandoval administration. ‘But Sandoval is seen privately as toxic because of the tax increases. It says a lot more about the dysfunction of the Republican Party than it does about Brian Sandoval.’

Just yesterday, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed they would all refuse to meet with, hear, or vote on anyone Obama nominates, sight unseen. This morning, the New York Times editorial board called that position “panic masquerading as strength.” If the president chooses Sandoval, continued obstruction will certainly deepen that impression.

But not everyone on the other side of the aisle will be pleased. Some liberals have argued that Obama should ignore Republican opposition and appoint a progressive anyway, even though it would be harder to push someone cut from the mold of Sotomayor or Kagan through the Senate.

Image via Reid.Senate.gov under public domain