The Supreme Court vacancy war – it’s more than a mere battle – will be a revealing test of leadership, and you have to wonder if anyone will come out of it looking good. So far everyone involved is just doing what he or she must. Soon after Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday, President Obama said he would nominate a successor; he must do that because it’s his job and because it’s an excellent opportunity to hammer on the Republicans if, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised, they refuse even to hold hearings on the nominee. McConnell, in the heat of an election year in which his party’s prospects look iffy, had to come out swinging. Most senators and presidential candidates in each party have lined up appropriately.
That is all just scene-setting. The leadership tests will begin with Obama’s choice of a nominee and everything that will ensue. Supreme Court nominations have often been a blood sport in which both parties have participated with relish, unearthing damaging facts from a nominee’s past and attacking nominees brutally – think back about the Republicans’ assault on Abe Fortas in 1968 or the Democrats’ fight against Robert Bork in 1987. Both nominees were rejected.
But both nominees did get hearings. If Obama nominates someone whom he had previously nominated to a federal judgeship and who was confirmed by the Senate unanimously – at least a couple of potential nominees fit that description – will Republicans be able to argue persuasively that this time that same person does not merit a hearing? How will individual senators of either party who are up for reelection behave as election day draws near, and to save their own skins they may feel they have to reject their party’s position? Certain senators in both parties could actually face that choice. And even if this vacancy doesn’t get filled until the next president takes office, the fight is still likely to be extraordinarily nasty, and it’s plausible to expect that a few undecided senators will come under crushing pressure. How will they behave as leaders?
A larger question: Regardless of the eventual outcome, will voters see the process as yet another example of Washington dysfunction in which elected leaders show they’d rather lay waste to the opposition than carry out one of their most important constitutional duties?
Making that prospect all the more depressing by contrast is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s tribute to Scalia. As justices, they were extreme opposites; a voting analysis by the New York Times in mid-2014 showed that they voted differently more often than almost any other pairing on the court. Yet they were the best of friends. They and their families spent New Year’s Eve together every year. Ginsburg’s statement after his death called him “a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit.” She concluded, “It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.”
That’s what most Americans want desperately in Washington – opponents who can maintain their positions while respecting and maybe even liking one another. As the war over Scalia’s successor plays out, that’s not what they’re going to get.
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What We’re Reading Today
Republicans close ranks around Scalia replacement
In the wake of Antonin Scalia‘s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block any Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama, sight unseen, leaving the matter for the next president and Congress. Vulnerable Republican senators in the upcoming election, including Ohio’s Rob Portman and Pennsylvania’s Patrick Toomey, are siding with McConnell, at least for now. Obama intends to nominate someone anyway. NYT
Former VW CEO may have known about cheat device
An internal memo from May 2014 says then-CEO Martin Winterkorn was warned about the possibility of a “so-called Defeat Device,” which the EPA and California authorities were investigating. When Winterkorn resigned last September, he said he did not know that such a device was used on Volkswagen vehicles. Proof that VW’s high executives knew about the emissions cheating software could lead to harsher penalties against the company. Fortune
Private equity company to buy ADT for $7 billion
Apollo Management will pay a 56% premium to the security firm’s closing price on Friday and merge the company with its own security firm, Protection 1. ADT CEO Naren Gursahaney agreed to the deal. CNBC
Building a Better Leader
Does your company run on fear?
If there’s little open dialogue and a collective belief that plans will be ineffective, then it might. INSEAD Knowledge
In order fix up your boring resume…
…dump the linear timeline. Instead, find a way to show the context of your career. Fortune
To ease the process of complex sales deals…
…consider establishing a “deals desk.” It can help structure non-standard deals better. SmartBrief
One-third of oil companies are at risk of going bankrupt…
…this year. So says a report by Deloitte, which found the 175 companies most at risk have $150 billion in debt. Low oil prices have kept them from making payments on the debt. Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to freeze oil output levels in an attempt to push prices up, but the strategy is contingent on other countries following suit. Oil ministers of those countries will meet with Iran in hopes of striking a deal. Fortune
Donald says he might run as an independent
Citing crowds that have booed him in recent debates, Donald Trump repeated his threat to run as an independent if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination. He claims the Republican National Committee hasn’t treated him fairly, placing special interests and donors in the debates to boo him. USA Today
Daily fantasy sports companies turn to lobbying
New York, Illinois, and Texas, and other states have called daily fantasy sports games illegal gambling. In response, the industry is stepping up efforts to persuade legislatures to make the games legal. Nigel Eccles‘s FanDuel and Jason Robins‘s DraftKings have coordinated lobbying efforts with the help of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. The number of lobbyists on the project has risen from four last year to 78. WSJ
Up or Out
BAE Systems has hired Charles Woodburn as COO. The Guardian
Sarah Robb O’Hagan has resigned as president of Equinox Holdings, a fitness club company. Fortune
Leo Van Munching Jr., former president of Heineken, died Sunday at age 89. NYT
Fortune Reads and Videos
Kanye West may have saved Tidal
By giving the fledgling company exclusive streaming rights to his new album, The Life of Pablo, Tidal has jumped to No. 1 on Apple’s app store. Fortune
In order to decide which “moonshots” will live…
…Alphabet tests, tests, and retests which projects have commercial viability. Fortune
Bosnia-Herzegovina applies to join the EU
It would be the 29th member. Fortune
Hedge fund beats Warren Buffett in 2015
But Buffett bet Protégé Partners that an index fund would beat a group of hedge funds over ten years. The win in 2015 was only the hedge funds’ second victory in eight years. Fortune
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|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|