Today, the Supreme Court takes up the case on Barack Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration. It is the battle a lot of people from both sides of the political aisle have been waiting for, and it could decided the future of immigration policy in the United States. With the tragic recent death of Antonin Scalia, the court is left with eight justices, and many are afraid that a 4-4 decision is possible. And this is exactly the type of decision Obama needs. What he does NOT want is a 5-3 decision.
The reason? He loses the argument that he needs to get a justice onto the court ASAP. If the Supreme Court can come to a majority opinion with just eight justices, then there’s no need for Obama to lobby so heavily for a hearing. He loses the last major talking point of 2016, even with a rare (for him) SCOTUS victory. But, it’s a victory that doesn’t suit his needs.
That only eight justices are hearing the case — due to the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia — could impact the final result. A split court between the four Democratic-appointed justices and four GOP-appointed justices would mean the programs remain blocked and the case is sent back to the district court in Texas that blocked them in the first place.
For the administration, a key argument before the court is to say that the states do not have the legal right to bring the case in the first place. If it can convince a majority of justices on that issue, the court may not even get to the merits of the immigration debate.
Should it win on that count, the injunction would be lifted, and the programs would be able to go into effect during the final months of the Obama presidency.
Obama is nothing if not a devout worshiper of rhetoric. He needs to have someone to pontificate against. He needs a boogeyman, a perceived evil that he can rail against.
He needs to hear his own voice.
This is why Obama wants a 4-4 decision. It leaves him with two things to attack Republicans over in the waning months of his regime: Immigration and a Supreme Court nomination hearing. A 5-3 victory for him will leave him with nothing to attack the Republicans on (though, let’s face it: he’ll try anyway).