Utahns Support Garland Confirmation to Supreme Court if Clinton Wins

A majority of Utahns say President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, appellate Judge Merrick Garland, should be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, either now or if Hillary Clinton wins the November election, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

But Utah Republicans are against the appointment of Garland, even if Clinton wins and would likely send up the name of a more liberal judge, finds UPD pollster Dan Jones & Associates.

As of now, the majority Senate Republicans won’t even give Garland a hearing, much less an up or down vote.

Some, like Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, have hinted that should Clinton win the presidency it would be smart politically to confirm Garland, since Clinton would likely nominate a more liberal judge than the D.C. federal Court of Appeals judge.

In fact, Hatch praised Garland in 1997 when he voted to confirm him to the D.C. court.

But the Supreme Court – now split 4-4 after the untimely death earlier this year of conservative justice Antonin Scalia – is a different animal.

There have been several controversial split decisions, 5-4, in recent years with progressive ideas being upheld, like Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

And conservatives across the nation, including in the U.S. Senate, are fearful if more liberal justices get a clear 5-4 majority on the high court.

With a GOP majority in the Senate, Republicans can block any federal court appointments made by a Democratic president, although it seems unlikely even the Senate Republicans could, or would, block a Supreme Court replacement for four years if Clinton should win.

Jones asked Utah voters if Garland should be confirmed now, before the election; or should be confirmed in a lame-duck session afterNov. 8, but before Clinton is sworn in; or should never be confirmed.

Jones’ findings:

— 34 percent of Utahns said Garland should be confirmed now.

— 20 percent said confirm him after the election, should Clinton win.

— 31 percent said Garland should never be confirmed.

— And 16 percent didn’t know.

So, if you add the “confirm now” with the “confirm if Clinton wins,” you get 54 percent – a majority – saying Garland should be confirmed if Clinton wins.

Obviously, should Republican Donald Trump win the presidency then the lame-duck, GOP-controlled Senate wouldn’t act on Garland and the Supreme Court vacancy would wait for a Trump nomination after the first of the year.

The website fivethirtyeight gives Democrats a 56 percent chance of winning control of the U.S. Senate.

It appears the Senate race in Pennsylvania holds the key to the Senate going 50-50, and if Clinton wins then her vice president, as Senate president, will cast tie-breaking votes in that body.

One may think that Utah Republicans would want Garland confirmed in a lame-duck session if Clinton wins the presidency.

But Jones finds that is not the case – perhaps because Obama nominated Garland and Utah Republicans really don’t like the president, or anything he does.

— 44 percent of Utah Republicans say Garland should not be confirmed, no matter what; 25 percent say confirm him if Clinton wins; 14 percent say confirm him now, before the election; and 18 percent of Utah Republicans don’t know what to do about Garland.

Democrats and political independents are clear – either confirm Garland now, or do it if Clinton wins.

— 78 percent of Democrats say confirm Garland now, with 12 percent saying do it if Clinton wins (90 percent saying Garland should go to the high court in any case).

— 45 percent of independents say confirm him now, with 17 percent saying do it if Clinton wins (62 percent say Garland should be on the high court).

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is running for re-election this year and he’s a “no” vote on Garland.

Lee leads Democrat Misty Snow by more than 40 points, and is a sure winner in November. Whether Lee will support a Garland appointment if Clinton wins is unclear.

Hatch, as mentioned, has hinted he may support Garland if Clinton wins.

Hatch said in his 2012 re-election, to an unprecedented seventh term, that he would retire in 2018. But now he’s hedging on that.

And if Hatch runs again (he would be 84), he would find a Utah conservative base that doesn’t – today – want Garland on the high court.

Jones finds that among those who self-identified as “very conservative,” 54 percent said don’t confirm Garland, now or even if Clinton wins; 26 percent said confirm him if Clinton is president; and 8 percent said confirm Garland now.

Jones polled 605 Utahns from Sept. 1-9. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.