New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie can name a successor for Frank Lautenberg, who died at the age of 89 on Monday, becoming the 299th Senator to pass away in office. But it's yet another moment when what's good for Christie in 2013 might not be good for him in 2016. Christie, after all, is a Republican running a state that voted for President Obama by almost 18 points. "Replacing a Democrat with a Democrat and then saying the voters should decide what happens next in November would no doubt be very well-received by Democrats and moderates," The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan writes. But that would mean Republicans who are already annoyed with Christie and his Obama-hugging antics would disown him.
To understand the difficult position Christie's in, look at these two tweets: "What lucky Democrat will Democrat Chris Christie appoint to Sen. Frank Lautenberg's seat?" conservative thriller author Brad Thor asks. Salon's Joan Walsh adds: "Hey Dem donors giving to Chris Christie: will you rethink if he picks a Republican to replace Lautenberg?"
Replacing Lautenberg poses several problems for Christie. State law allows Christie to appoint a replacement, and maybe to hold a special election later this year. (It's possible, Politico explains, that because it's too late for a primary, an election might have to wait till 2014.) It's likely the special election will be held in November, at the same time New Jersey votes for statewide officials, like their governor. Which means that Christie will likely be on the same ballot as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said he's probably running for Lautenberg's seat back in January. Having Booker on the ticket might help Christie's Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono (pictured at right). "Rumors have abounded for months that Christie was considering appointing Cory Booker," Politico's Maggie Habermann and Ginger Gibson write. "However, sources close to both men have insisted this scenario makes no sense for either of them."
So, if Christie appoints a right-winger, he angers the Democrats he needs to be reelected. If he appoints a Democrat, which he probably won't, he infuriates the Republican base he would need in the 2016 Republican primary. But splitting the difference won't work, either. Salon's Steve Kornacki points out that appointing a non-controversial old Republican as a caretaker for the seat is not without risk. The last time a Republican New Jersey governor did that a Democrat won the seat. His name was Frank Lautenberg.
A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday said police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common jailhouse procedures like fingerprinting.
"Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's five-justice majority.
But the four dissenting justices said that the court was allowing a major change in police powers.
"Make no mistake about it: because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason," conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom.
At least 28 states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court was one of the first to say that it was illegal for that state to take Alonzo King's DNA without approval from a judge, saying King had "a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches."
But the high court's decision reverses that ruling and reinstates King's rape conviction, which came after police took his DNA during an unrelated arrest. Kennedy wrote the decision, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Scalia was joined in his dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Getting DNA swabs from criminals is common. All 50 states and the federal government take cheek swabs from convicted criminals to check against federal and state databanks, with the court's blessing. The fight at the Supreme Court was over whether that DNA collection could come before conviction and without a judge issuing a warrant.
According to court documents, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System or CODIS - a coordinated system of federal, state and local databases of DNA profiles - already contains more than 10 million criminal profiles and 1.1 million profiles of those arrested.
In the case before the court, a 53-year-old woman was raped and robbed but no one was arrested. Almost six years later, Alonzo King was arrested and charged with felony second-degree assault. Taking advantage of the Maryland law that allowed warrantless DNA tests following some felony arrests, police took a cheek swab of King's DNA, which matched a sample from the 2003 Salisbury rape. King was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.
King eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault from his arrest, a crime for which Maryland cannot take warrantless DNA samples. The state courts said it violated King's rights for the state to take his DNA based on an arrest alone. The state Court of Appeals said King had "a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches." But the high court's decision reinstates King's conviction.
Maryland stopped collecting DNA after that decision, but Roberts allowed police to keep collecting DNA samples pending the high court's review.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz welcomed President Obama to Texas Thursday, where Obama is scheduled to begin his "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour," by highlighting Texas' job record in comparison with the administration's.
"America is stuck with high unemployment and low GDP growth, so it's encouraging to see the President coming to Austin to talk about jobs — perhaps he will learn how to create some from the folks who know how," Cruz said in a statement.
"Texas is leading the nation in economic growth and job creation because of principled, conservative leaders who understand the keys to economic success are lower, flatter taxes, limited government and restrained spending," he added. "Texas has shown the country how it's done, and we hope the President will take some of these lessons back to Washington to bring true economic recovery to our nation."