Sandoval to be vetted for US Supreme Court, but Republicans stand firm

WASHINGTON — Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to be vetted by the White House to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, his office confirmed Wednesday.

But despite Sandoval’s current standing as a Republican leader, his nomination apparently would not be enough to prompt Senate Republican leaders to give him a confirmation hearing if he is President Barack Obama’s nominee.

“It’s the principle, not the person,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Grassley repeated his position that his committee would not hold a confirmation hearing on any nomination submitted in Obama’s final year in office.

“The American people deserve to have a voice in this debate, which is why the next president will be choosing the next Supreme Court nominee,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also held to that position.

“The Leader said the next president should nominate for this vacancy. Period,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said when asked about Sandoval.

Sandoval not commenting

Speculation that Nevada’s governor could be a Supreme Court nominee surfaced in political circles within days of Scalia’s death. On Saturday, while attending a National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., he told the Review-Journal that he would “cross that bridge if it ever comes.”

“I am not going to comment on the politics of the nomination,” he said. “I’m just going to be watching the process, just like everybody else.”

Following Wednesday’s Washington Post report saying that Obama is vetting him, Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said that “neither Gov. Sandoval nor his staff has been contacted by or talked to the Obama administration regarding any potential vetting for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But a source close to the situation confirmed that the governor has agreed to be vetted, though he has not committed to accepting a nomination should it be offered. Sandoval might be keeping his options open, possibly because any Obama nominee would face a bruising confirmation process.

Sandoval met with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Monday, and the Supreme Court opening came up during the meeting.

“They talked about many things,” the source said, adding the court opening was not the purpose of the meeting.

The source also confirmed that Sandoval was one of several potential justices Reid has suggested to the White House.

Sandoval is a former federal district court judge and was recommended by Reid for the lifetime appointment. He left the bench in 2009 to run for governor, beating Reid’s son, Rory, for the job. He and Harry Reid are said to maintain a cordial relationship, despite political differences.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, but it is common to vet a number of candidates early in the selection process.

In addition to meeting Reid, a source said, the governor also has had phone conversations with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Last week, Heller backed McConnell’s rejection of any Obama high court nominee. Heller, whose support for a Sandoval appointment would be crucial, was mum Wednesday.

“There will not be a follow-up statement until the vetting process is over,” said Neal Patel, Heller’s communications director and counsel.

If he chooses Sandoval, Obama would be going against both recent history and his own actions in appointing Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the court. Recent presidents have avoided nominees from the political arena and both of Obama’s picks were primarily known for their legal careers.

Obama could be hoping a Sandoval nomination would add to the pressure Reid and his fellow Democrats are hoping to build on Republicans.

Record could hurt Sandoval’s chances

Sandoval is Hispanic, a vital voting bloc in the upcoming presidential election. But, his record as governor could cut both ways for Democrats who might resist giving even a moderate Republican a lifelong seat on the court.

“It’s downright absurd that President Obama would risk his legacy by appointing another anti-labor Republican like Gov. Brian Sandoval to an already overwhelmingly pro-big business Supreme Court,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee based in Vermont.

“Nominating Sandoval to the Supreme Court would not only prevent grassroots organizations like Democracy for America from supporting the president in this nomination fight, it could lead us to actively encouraging Senate Democrats to oppose his appointment.”

A Catholic, Sandoval has said he personally opposes abortion but he supports a woman’s right to choose. That position could be a nonstarter for many Republicans, especially those who view Scalia, a staunch opponent of legal abortion, as a conservative icon.

After the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, took effect, Sandoval also became the first Republican governor to support the law’s expansion of Medicaid.

After an appeals court threw the state’s legal basis on a same-sex marriage case in doubt, Sandoval withdrew the state’s opposition.

Never popular with Nevada conservatives, the governor ran in 2010 on a no-tax stance and in 2015 pushed through the largest tax increase in state history.

Review-Journal writer Sandra Chereb contributed to this report. Contact Jim Myers at or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @myers_dc

News Videos
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing