Sen. Mike Lee is reportedly under consideration by President-elect Donald Trump as a possible Supreme Court nominee. Most Utahns think that's a pretty good idea.
A new UtahPolicy.com survey finds 59% of Utahns either "strongly" or "somewhat" support Lee moving from the Senate to the high court. About a third (31%) say they oppose Lee being nominated to the Supreme Court. 11% say they don't know.
Trump first floated Lee's name as a possible Supreme Court nominee in September. At the time Lee said he was not interested in being a SCOTUS nominee because he was running for re-election. Lee handily defeated Democrat Misty Snow to win a second term in Washington.
Now that Trump unexpectedly won the presidential election, things have changed. Lee met with Trump in New York City in December where they discussed the Supreme Court along with other issues.
The only reason we're even talking about Trump making a pick for the Supreme Court before he's sworn in as president is the Republican-controlled Senate's refusal to consider President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia, who died in March of 2016. The ten months that seat has remained open is the longest Supreme Court vacancy in the modern era.
A potential fly in the ointment is Lee's refusal to endorse or even support Trump during the 2016 campaign. Lee initially endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, which makes his nomination unlikely. Trump has shown a proclivity for dangling plum assignments in front of his former rivals or critics, only to snatch them away (Mitt Romney leaps to mind for some reason).
A potential Lee nomination would be cheered by conservatives, who would likely see an ally on the court. Lee is one of the most reliably conservative members of Congress. He also clerked for current Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito twice and his father, Rex Lee, was Solicitor General for President Ronald Reagan.
Not surprisingly Utah Republicans are happy with the possibility of Lee being nominated to the Supreme Court, while Utah Democrats absolutely hate the idea.
- 82% of Utah Republicans support Lee for SCOTUS, with 50% saying they "strongly" support the possibility.
- Only 9% of Utah Democrats support a possible Lee nomination. 2/3rds (66%) say they are "strongly" opposed.
Political independents are mostly for the idea. 48% say they support while 37% are opposed.
A Supreme Court seat is one of nine lifetime appointments. If Lee is chosen by Trump and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, his replacement in Washington would be selected by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The Dan Jones & Associates survey was conducted December 8-12, 2016 among 615 Utah voters. It has a margin of error of 3.95%.