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“History Isn’t On Their Side – And Neither Is The Calendar”: Justice Kennedy’s Confirmation Debunks Key GOP Talking Point

Soon after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was announced, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement, “The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year.”

The fact of the matter is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee should have done his homework before getting this wrong.

The “80 years” talking point spread like wildfire in Republican circles – it was repeated by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio during Saturday night’s debate – to the point that the GOP has convinced itself that at no point in the modern era has the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

About 14 justices were confirmed in election years, and perhaps the most pertinent example is Justice Anthony Kennedy. As the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne noted this morning:

A Senate controlled by Democrats confirmed President Reagan’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy on a 97 to 0 vote in February 1988, which happened to be an election year.

Yes, in Reagan’s eighth year, nine months before Election Day 1988, the Democratic-led Senate confirmed Kennedy with ease.

Chuck Grassley, who’d already been in the Senate for seven years at that point, delivered remarks on Feb. 13, 1988 – exactly 28 years to the day before Scalia’s passing – urging the Senate to confirm Kennedy during that election year.

Grassley voted for Kennedy’s nomination on the Senate floor soon after. So too did a young man by the name of Mitch McConnell, a Republican senator from Kentucky in his first term.

At the time, Ronald Reagan, stung by two failed nominees to the high court (Douglas Ginsburg and Robert Bork), said at the time that if Senate Democrats played election-year games by stalling on Kennedy’s nomination in 1988, the “American people will know what’s up.”

And on this, he was correct.

But we know, of course, that Democrats didn’t bother. There was a vacancy on the Supreme Court; the White House nominated a qualified and credible jurist; the Senate considered his qualifications; and he was confirmed in an election year without much of a fuss – even though the Senate was controlled by Democrats and Reagan was a Republican president.

It’s true that Kennedy was first nominated in late 1987, but the point is the right is now arguing that election-year confirmation votes have no modern precedent. Or as Grassley put it, “[I]t’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year.”

The Kennedy example proves otherwise.

If this were December 2016, Senate Republicans would be in a far better position to balk. But it’s mid-February, and the Senate’s to-do list for the next several months is quite thin. History isn’t on their side – and neither is the calendar.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 15, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Mitch Mc Connell, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s In The Compromise Spending Bill?

After a marathon four-day bill drafting session, the House Appropriations Committee early Tuesday morning unveiled compromise legislation to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year and cut $38.5 billion from current spending levels.

House Republican leaders struck a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House late Friday after pushing to cut $61 billion from current spending levels. GOP leaders hope to put the bill on the floor Wednesday, with Senate action expected Thursday. The current stopgap funding measure expires Friday.  

Overall, labor, health, and education programs received a $5.5 billion cut from last fiscal year’s level, including the cancellation of 55 programs for savings of more than $1 billion. The final legislation prevents 218,000 low-income children from being removed from Head Start and rejects education grant funding that would have cost approximately 10,000 jobs and reduced educational services to 1 million students, according to Senate Appropriations Committee summary.

Here’s where the spending cuts (and, in the case of Defense, the increases) come from:

  • TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING. These programs would receive the largest cut under the compromise, $12.3 billion from fiscal 2010 levels, including a total of $2.9 billion in cuts for high-speed rail, $991 million in cuts to transit programs, and a $3.2 billion rescission of highway funding, including $630 million worth of old earmarks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development fund would get a $942 million cut.
  • SCIENCE. The continuing resolution also blocks funding for the establishment of a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; for the approval of new fisheries catch-share programs in certain fisheries; and for NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to engage in bilateral activities with China.
  • AGRICULTURE. Agriculture programs would see $3 billion in cuts from fiscal 2010, including a $10 million cut to food and safety inspection, but the plan allows “for uninterrupted meat, poultry, and egg products inspection activities of the” Agriculture Department, the committee said. The USDA’s Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC, received $6.75 billion, which is a $504 million cut from the fiscal 2010 level.
  • ENERGY. Energy and water programs were reduced by a relatively modest $1.7 billion. The bill funds the Army Corps of Engineers at the president’s request level of $4.9 billion and supports existing applications for renewable energy loan guarantees at the Department of Energy.
  • WASHINGTON, D.C. The compromise restores a long-standing provision against the use of federal and local funds for abortions in the District of Columbia, and includes the reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, along with a $2.3 million funding increase, to stop the termination of the program and allow new students to participate.
  • HOMELAND SECURITY. A $784 million net reduction over last year, including a $786 million cut to Federal Emergency Management Agency first-responder grants and elimination of $264 million in funding that was previously targeted to earmarks.
  • DEFENSE. Funded at $513 billion in the CR, about $5 billion above last year. The bill also includes an additional $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations (emergency funding).

By: Humberto Sanchez, National Journal, April 12, 2011

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Deficits, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Government, Health Care, Homeland Security, Jobs, Labor, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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