EDISON – Senate President Steve Sweeney gave little indication Wednesday about a confirmation hearing on Gov. Chris Christie’s two Supreme Court nominees being right around the corner.
Sweeney, who the governor has been singlehandedly blaming for stalling the nomination process, said during a legislative leadership discussion that the “Supreme Court is a big issue” for the Legislature, adding it’s improper to “stack the court.”
The top Senate lawmaker, speaking during a Commercial Real Estate Development Association public policy talk, cast a shadow of doubt on any confirmation hearings on the two nominees being scheduled in the near future.
“When the governor makes a statement saying he wants to change the court to reverse Abbott, you can imagine what that does,” said Sweeney, referring to Christie’s recent comments during one of his town halls.
Sweeney said the independence of the courts is paramount, saying in general terms that people should be concerned about knowing how a court will rule even before a decision is handed down.
However, Sweeney stopped short of speaking directly about the governor’s two nominees.
“I’m not saying his nominees are not fair,” he said. “Honestly, I’m not going to comment on his nominees.”
Sweeney’s statements come after Christie told residents at a Montville town hall last month he ran on a platform of vowing to change the makeup of the state’s high court in part to adjust the state’s school funding formula.
“Of the $97 million that we’re going to increase [in school aid] the bulk of it will go to the Abbott districts, probably somewhere around 60 percent to 65 percent. And the reason for that is the New Jersey Supreme Court, who continues every time I try to make a change in the school funding formula I get sued, it goes to the Supreme Court, I lose and then I have to pay the money,” Christie said during a the town hall.
“It is why I am trying to change the Supreme Court,” he said.
The governor said Sweeney should stop collecting a state paycheck because of his refusal to do his job.
“I am tired, candidly, of Steve Sweeney sticking it to the taxpayers of New Jersey,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m so frustrated by the fact I now have two more nominees to the Supreme Court – who I nominated months ago – who still haven’t gotten hearings,” Christie continued. “You see, here’s the bottom line: Not the Legislature, not the governor are going to be able to change the inequity and the failure of Abbott unless we change the Supreme Court.”
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"Enlisting Fox is another reminder of how much Christie has truly relied on insiders, including Democrats, to bolster his agenda or bail him out of trouble. Not long after arriving in Trenton in 2009, Christie began collaborating with George Norcross, the deeply entrenched Democratic Party kingmaker, to help him cut deals with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
When his close ally David Samson resigned as chairman of the Port Authority over conflict-of-interest questions earlier this year, Christie replaced Samson with John Degnan, a pillar of the Democratic Party establishment. And now, confronted with a crisis, Christie has turned to “Jamie,’’ as Fox has been known throughout political circles since he began as an aide in the Democratic Senate in the 1980s." - columnist Charles Stile
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