Senate’s Obstruction Could Cost Taxpayers, Litigants

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
Today's Deadlock in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association Is A Sign of What's to Come

Statement by Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause Legal Director and Senior Policy Counsel

Today’s Supreme Court deadlock in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association demonstrates how the obstructionist tactics of Sen. McConnell and his allies risk wasting time and money for litigants and taxpayers for the next year, and perhaps longer. We are almost certain to see more such 4-4 splits unless the Senate does its job on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. This is the second 4-4 split decision in the past seven days.

With 4-4 split decisions, the issues involved often will be left in legal limbo and may have to be re-litigated in the lower courts with new plaintiffs and defendants before returning to the Supreme Court – perhaps years from now.

Litigation is expensive in addition to being time-consuming. According to Sen. McConnell, the Senate will not even consider a replacement for Justice Scalia until after January 2017, which would risk additional 4-4 split decisions for nearly two full Supreme Court terms.

At, the Garland-Kennedy Countdown Clock is ticking away, tracking the 84 days between when Republican President Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Kennedy to the court and a Democratic majority in the Senate confirmed him, 97-0. With 70 days to go, the pressure is mounting, especially for senators who face election this year; public opinion surveys consistently show a growing number of voters are appalled by the obstructionist tactics of Majority Leader McConnell.

Garland-Kennedy Countdown Clock

It has been almost two weeks since the President did his job by nominating Judge Garland; two weeks wasted while Sen. McConnell plays politics with the Constitution and our nation’s highest court.