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“Unlike Anything Ever Tried In American History”: The ‘GOP Gamble’: Voters Won’t Care About Court Blockade

As far as Senate Republicans are concerned, the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is now officially over. They’ve declared themselves the winner.

Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met in private this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.

A partisan blockade, unlike anything ever tried in American history, is the only course the Republican majority is willing to consider. Period. Full stop.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said today he wouldn’t even speak to a Supreme Court nominee if he or she showed up at his office. Soon after, McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the same thing.

So, is the fight over an unchosen, unknown nominee finished before it begins? Well, maybe.

President Obama and his team are no doubt aware of the developments on Capitol Hill, though it’s unlikely West Wing officials are going to simply quit, telling each other, “Well, we tried.”

What’s probably going to happen is that the president will nominate a qualified official for the high court; he’ll encourage senators to do their job while honoring the constitutional process; and then Democrats hope for the pressure to change the politics.

The next question, of course, is whether such pressure is going to exist.

Last week, a Fox News poll found a clear majority of Americans agreeing that the Supreme Court’s vacancy should be filled this year, not next. This week, a Pew Research Center survey found similar results.

In the high-stakes battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy. About four-in-ten (38%) say the Senate should not hold hearings until the next president selects a court nominee.

Of course, while independent and Democratic voters agree on senators doing their duty, the same poll found that 66% of GOP voters want the blockade to continue – and those are very likely the only voters Senate Republicans care about right now.

It sounds cynical and undemocratic, but by all appearances, GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill just don’t buy into the notion that there will ever be a public backlash against them – on practically anything. Cycle after cycle, their antics are rewarded, even after a government shutdown, a debt-ceiling crisis, and a complete unwillingness to govern on practically any issue.

Periodically, someone will say, “The public won’t stand for this,” to which Republicans respond, “Of course they will. Voters don’t pay much attention anyway.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“What Packing The Court Means”: Chuck Grassley Has No Idea What He’s Talking About

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s second highest federal bench, has 11 seats. For the last five years, four of those seats have been vacant, which has not only put a strain on the court, but left Republican appointees as the clear majority, pushing the bench to the right.

And so, yesterday offered something of a breakthrough when the Senate unanimously approved Sri Srinivasan, President Obama’s first confirmed judge to the D.C. Circuit. That leaves three vacancies on the bench, and the White House intends to send nominees for those slots to the Senate soon.

For Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), that’s a problem. Indeed, Dylan Matthews noted yesterday that Grassley believes rascally Democrats and the Obama administration are trying to “pack the court” through a “court-packing” scheme. Grassley was reading carefully from a prepared text, suggesting the Iowa Republican was quite serious about the argument — he repeated it five times.

It fell to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Grassley’s colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to gently explain that Grassley has no idea what he’s talking about. “Court packing” was an FDR-era idea in which the executive branch would expand the number of seats on a bench in order to tilt the judiciary in the president’s favor. The idea was floated in the 1930s, but not seriously pursued.

What we’re talking about in 2013 is very different. There’s a vacancy on the federal bench; the president chooses a nominee to fill that vacancy; the Senate Judiciary Committee scrutinizes that nominee and sends him or her to the floor; and then the Senate’s full membership has an opportunity to vote “yea” or “nay” on confirmation.

Chuck Grassley sees this as some kind of underhanded Democratic scheme. The rest of us should consider it basic American governance.

Postscript: I should note that if Senate Republicans reclaim the majority after the 2014 midterms, Grassley would become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite his apparent confusion on these issues.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 24, 2013

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Federal Courts, Federal Judiciary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Legacy Of The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Hearings

Even now, with the healing distance of two decades, the subject of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas retains its power to provoke and divide.

It was 20 years ago this month that Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, threatening to derail Thomas’s imminent confirmation to the Supreme Court. I spent the weekend-long marathon of hearings in the Senate Caucus Room, the majestic setting of soaring marble columns and gilded ceiling contrasting with the squalid details of Hill’s allegations.

 It was both riveting and horrifying. By the time the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings were gaveled to a close at 2 a.m. Monday, I — like everyone else — was simply relieved that it was over.

Looking back, it is possible to trace the larger cultural and political legacy, both good and bad, of that painful moment.

First, the Thomas-Hill hearings heralded a coarsening of the national dialogue. It goes too far to suggest cause and effect; there is no straight line between the hearings and, say, wardrobe malfunctions or “Jersey Shore.” But the hearings, with their nationally televised discussion of Thomas’s alleged tastes in pornography and his explicit overtures, crossed an invisible line into a cruder culture.

A few years earlier, I had covered a trial involving a sexual act that the existing stylebook would let me describe, rather misleadingly, only as “sodomy.” A few years later, the nation found itself in a graphic discussion about the precise meaning of “sexual relations” and the DNA evidence on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.

The intervening experience of the Thomas-Hill hearings, with the discussion of Thomas’s alleged interest in “Long Dong Silver” and commentary about pubic hair on a Coke can, helped define deviancy downward. As we sat at the press table during the most explicit testimony, the New York Times reporter turned to me, a stricken look on his face, and asked how we were going to write about all this, given our newspapers’ notorious queasiness about sexual matters. In the end, our stories were unexpurgated.

Second, the hearings heralded — although again they did not create — an intensifying of the partisan divide. The 1987 fight over the failed nomination of Robert Bork was intense but nowhere near as personal or partisan.

As with the Clinton impeachment several years later, the Thomas nomination witnessed each side automatically lining up in support of, or in opposition to, the protagonist. Senators who wanted to see Thomas on the high court credited his version of events; those who wanted him defeated for other reasons chose to believe Hill. The facts themselves took second place to political interests.

Indeed, the very women’s groups most exercised about Thomas’s alleged misconduct were notably, shamefully silent when it came to Clinton’s behavior with a White House intern and his false statements under oath.

In hindsight, the Thomas confirmation seems almost quaint, with the Senate’s majority vote in favor of the nominee. The possibility of a filibuster was bargained away early on. Today, an option that once seemed nuclear has become the norm.

The third legacy of the Thomas hearings is a positive one: lower tolerance for sexual harassment and greater political prominence for women. Back then, an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee was inclined to ignore the Hill allegations. That would not happen today, with two women on the panel, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Two women served in the Senate in 1991; there are 17 today.

As to sexual harassment, of course such behavior still occurs and some women still endure it, rather than speak out. But Hill’s reluctant testimony educated and chastened many men, and it emboldened many women. The workplace of 2011 may not be perfect, but it is a better, fairer place.

For me, the final legacy of the hearings is entirely personal: It’s how I met my husband, who worked on the committee staff for a Democratic senator. Late on the weekend that the Hill story leaked, as I was scrambling to confirm it, he returned my phone call, explaining that he had been away at his grandmother’s 90th birthday party.

Who, he asked, was Anita Hill? He seemed like a nice guy, so with uncharacteristic patience, I brought him up to speed, instead of following my instinct to pronounce him useless and hang up. It was only months later — after we started dating — that I discovered he was feigning ignorance out of professional caution.

Twenty years and two beautiful children later, I still believe Anita Hill. But I owe an odd, unpayable debt to Justice Thomas.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 4, 2011

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Ideologues, Politics, Press, Republicans, Supreme Court | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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