Report: Obama May Test Grassley with Iowan for SCOTUS Nominee

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According to a report today in the New York Times, the White House is vetting Cedar Rapids Judge Jane Kelly, a public defender appointed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama in 2013, as a nominee to fill the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The news is sourced to an unnamed person with knowledge of the situation, the Times says.

Kelly’s location is probably not a coincidence: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has indicated that he doesn’t even plan to hold hearings for Obama’s nominee. Instead, he and other Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst, have argued that, contrary to tradition, the next president should nominate Scalia’s successor in 2017.

The Times reports:

In a Senate floor speech in 2013, Mr. Grassley effusively praised Judge Kelly, who has spent her career in Iowa and is well regarded in legal circles there. He quoted from a letter from retired Judge David R. Hansen, a Republican appointee, who called her a “forthright woman of high integrity and honest character” and a person of “exceptionally keen intellect” before voting to confirm her for the appeals court post.

That, Democrats have been thinking, would put Grassley in a tough spot:

Democrats have said privately that they believe selecting Judge Kelly might force Mr. Grassley to change his stance and hold hearings after all, out of a sense of obligation to a prominent jurist from his home state and concern about tarnishing his reputation in Iowa months before he faces re-election.

After saying he wouldn’t hold hearings on an Obama nominee, Grassley met with Obama, but the meeting reportedly did not resolve the showdown.

Read the full Times report here.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.