Will a new Supreme Court Justice be appointed before 20 January 2017? (update)

I’m altering my earlier forecast just slightly downward to 28%. Here’s my reasoning.

There’s been a fair amount of speculation about whether Congressional Republicans might rush Judge Garland through the approval process during the lame duck portion of the Mr. Obama’s presidency, if HRC wins the 2016 contest. In my last forecast, I assigned this event a low but positive probability. However, I’m coming to think that even this probability wasn’t low enough. Senator McConnell is now strongly signaling that he wouldn’t allow that to happen. This morning Senator McConnell said, “The principle is the same, whether it’s before the election or after the election….The principle is the American people are choosing their next president and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee.” What if a Democrat wins the presidency, Senator McConnell was asked, and decides to appoint someone more liberal than Garland? “It’d be hard to be more liberal than Merrick Garland”[a]. Read that last sentence a few times. Really? Senator McConnell, I served with left liberals. I knew left liberals. Left liberals were friends of mine. Senator McConnell, Merrick Garland is no left liberal[b].

Anyway, I mention this because Senator McConnell is (intentionally, I think) signaling that he has an active doomsday device[c]. He’s making it very hard for himself and those he’s supposed to be managing to change their minds later[d]. Neither Senator McConnell nor his colleagues want to be on record as confirming to the Supreme Court someone who he himself has described as being about as liberal as possible. There is reason to think that Senator McConnell might be vulnerable to a challenge from the right[e], and this would be ammunition for his opponent. In fairness, that election would be 4 years down the road, and McConnell would be 78 when his next term is up, so take this point with a grain of salt. I am. But I’m less sanguine about a lame duck appointment than I was a few days ago.

[a]http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/03/20/mcconnell_says_republicans_won_t_vote_for_supreme_court_nominee_after_election.html

[b]http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/us/politics/merrick-garlands-record-and-style-hint-at-his-appeal.html

[c]http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2009/09/fun_with_nuclear_game_theory

[d] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.39.4797&rep=rep1&type=pdf, see Section V,

[e]http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/01/24/ashley_judd_challenge_from_right_may_confront_mcconnell_116774.html

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