Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge and current Republican governor of Nevada, does not want to be a Supreme Court justice. Following rumors he was on the short list of potential replacements for the late Antonin Scalia, Sandoval released a statement giving up his tenuous claim to the seat. “Earlier today, I notified the White House that I do not wish to be considered at this time for possible nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “The notion of being considered for a seat on the highest court in the land is beyond humbling and I am incredibly grateful to have been mentioned.”
Had he accepted the nomination, Sandoval would’ve been a strange choice. He has called the Affordable Care Act “unconstitutional” and the president’s executive orders on immigration unjustified, and has sought to pass a voter-ID law and collective-bargaining “reforms” in his state. Yet the Nevada governor is one of the GOP’s last remaining pro-choice politicians, which would presumably have made him an acceptable compromise for Democrats while offering a strategic advantage in their upcoming clash with the GOP.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Sandoval reportedly met with before making his announcement, has pledged to take “no action” on any Supreme Court nomination until after November’s election, saying that the new justice “will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the fall,” and Republican Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told Politico on Wednesday that “[it] doesn’t make a difference if Sandoval is the nominee.” Had Obama tapped Sandoval, McConnell’s unprecedented obstruction would’ve looked even more unreasonable.
Thus, appointing Sandoval might have been a cynical maneuver aimed at clarifying just how extreme the Republican Party’s intransigence truly is. But it’s unclear if Senate Democrats would have been willing to hold their tongues long enough for Obama to carry out his troll. On several upcoming Supreme Court cases, a Sandoval nomination would actually have been worse for progressive priorities than if Scalia’s seat simply remained vacant.
Following the governor’s announcement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest offered no clue as to who else is on the president’s short list. “Even after the fact I’m not going to get into a lot of details about who is on the president’s list and who is not,” he told the Post. “In part, that’s because the list is not final.”
This post has been updated throughout.