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“Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Eight Is Not Enough”: An Equal Division Is Essentially The Same As A Denial Of Review

Last month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), feeling pressure over his role in an unprecedented Supreme Court blockade, wrote an op-ed in which he insisted the whole mess is unimportant. The “sky won’t fall” if the Supreme Court remains deadlocked for a year and a half – eight justices is plenty – so the Republicans’ unprecedented scheme isn’t worth all the fuss.

Actual justices on the high court appear to feel differently. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged publicly yesterday that the institution she serves is, in fact, being hurt by having eight justices instead of nine. The Washington Post reported:

The Supreme Court has deadlocked 4 to 4 in several cases since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. Ginsburg told judges at a conference in New York that the situation is unfortunate because it essentially means important issues are being denied Supreme Court review, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.

“That means no opinions and no precedential value; an equal division is essentially the same as a denial of review,” Ginsburg said.

She added, “Eight, as you know, is not a good number for a multi-member court.”

Ginsburg is hardly the only one who’s noticed. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick noted last week that the Supreme Court can pretend that “it can manage just fine with eight justices,” but the fact remains that the institution is struggling to do its job.

Nobody on the court can say: “Please give us a ninth justice so we can get back to work.” That sounds like a plea for a Justice Merrick Garland. That is why it’s left to former Justice John Paul Stevens to say it for them. Even if all eight justices were to agree that between being unable to take any cases for next term, and being unable to decide major cases this term, things are not getting done at the court.

The same week, the editorial board of the New York Times added, “Every day that passes without a ninth justice undermines the Supreme Court’s ability to function, and leaves millions of Americans waiting for justice or clarity as major legal questions are unresolved…. Despite what Senate Republicans may say about the lack of harm in the delay in filling the vacancy, the court cannot do its job without a full bench.”

By all appearances, the Senate’s Republican majority doesn’t care – according to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), it’s somehow fair to treat Merrick Garland unfairly – but they should.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 27, 2016

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Orrin Hatch Gives Away The Game”: Perfect Illustration Of GOP Obstruction The President Has Faced

This is priceless:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn’t yet met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland for what has been a long anticipated encounter between the former Judiciary Committee chairman and the federal appeals court judge he has long praised.

But when the meeting does happen, don’t expect Garland to succeed in convincing Hatch to support his nomination, because Hatch has already declared that it won’t.

“Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. … Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle,” Hatch wrote in an op-ed published on the website of the Deseret News early Thursday morning and later removed. It remains available in a Google database.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who recommended that President Obama nominate Merrick Garland to replace John Paul Stevens when he retired back in 2010.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who said this less than one week before President Obama actually did nominate Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Newsmax on Friday that President Obama wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Utah senator was proven wrong.

“The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told the conservative news site on Friday.

“[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he continued. “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Now he’s decided he won’t support a hearing for Garland and has actually written an opinion piece to rationalize his decision, and he’s done it before meeting with the judge.

This is a perfect illustration of the kind of obstruction the president has faced from the Republicans. I’m not sure I could ever find a more apt demonstration.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 26, 2017

May 27, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Merrick Garland, Orrin Hatch, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , | 1 Comment

“Shredding Their Own Talking Points”: Senate Republicans Turn Their Principles Into A Punch Line

Before President Obama even introduced Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans said they had little choice but to impose an impenetrable blockade. Their “principles,” GOP senators said, made any other course of action impossible.

First, for example, Republicans said their principles required them to honor the “tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years” about high-court vacancies that occur during a president’s eighth year. Soon after, Republicans sheepishly acknowledged that “tradition” doesn’t exist.

Republicans then said their principles about the Supreme Court have nothing do to with partisanship. Soon after, they quietly conceded that if a GOP president were in office, the blockade wouldn’t exist.

Republicans then said their opposition to Garland’s nomination has nothing to do with Garland specifically or his qualifications, but rather, the party’s principles about election-year confirmation votes. Soon after, the Republican National Committee released an oppo dump on Garland – a judge Republicans and conservatives have praised for years – which pointed in the opposite direction of their purported principles.

And finally, Republicans said their principles require them to keep this vacancy in place so that “the next president” can fill it, Garland’s merits notwithstanding. Except, many GOP senators have decided not to take this principle seriously, either.

Sen. Orrin Hatch on Thursday blasted the notion that the Senate would consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland before November – but suggested he would be open to confirming him if Hillary Clinton wins the general election and doesn’t announce her own choice. […]

Hatch remarked that it is possible that Garland could undergo a confirmation process during the lame-duck session following the Nov. 8 election, but that is largely contingent upon who the next president would be.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I honestly can’t remember the last time Republicans went so far to shred their own talking points in public. According to Orrin Hatch, the GOP’s blockade against Garland has nothing to do with partisanship or even the judge’s nomination on the merits, but rather, this is solely about principle.

Unless, of course, Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, at which point the GOP will gladly throw their principles out the window. Hatch isn’t the only one, either.

We’re talking about elected senators who aren’t even trying to work in good faith. Some of these Republicans seem quite comfortable appearing nakedly partisan, abandoning any sense of propriety or responsibility, as if they simply don’t care whether or not they appear ridiculous.

In fairness, there are some exceptions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) conceded yesterday, “We can’t have it both ways.” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, agreed and said he intended to stick to the underlying principle.

But these positions are not guiding Republican tactics, at least not right now. The GOP game plan is as follows:

1.Impose an eight-month blockade on the Garland nomination, unlike anything ever seen in American history, including a prohibition on floor votes and confirmation hearings.

2.Wait for the election results in November.

3.If a Republican wins the presidency, do nothing.

4.If Hillary Clinton wins, revisit the blockade and consider confirming Garland during the lame-duck session between Election Day and the start of the new Congress in 2017.

The benefit to Republicans would be obvious: they’d confirm a 63-year-old moderate, rather than let Clinton nominate someone younger and more liberal. At that point, GOP senators appear craven and unprincipled, but by all appearances, Republicans just don’t care.

And while GOP senators may not be concerned about their reputations or their ability to take pride in their public service, they should be concerned with the details of the nominating process: if Clinton wins and Republicans decide to move forward on Garland, President Obama could always withdraw the nomination during the lame-duck session and empower his Democratic successor to start the process anew in the new year.

If Republicans aren’t prepared to take their own principles seriously, no one else will, either.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 17, 2016

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Another GOP Kamikaze Mission”: #NeverTrump Conservatives Are Fighting For Him To Reshape The Supreme Court

The organizing principle of the #NeverTrump movement isn’t simply that Republicans should deny Donald Trump their presidential nomination, as Marco Rubio has it, but that they should also deny him the presidency should he prevail in the primary.

Some conservatives’ implicit willingness to essentially throw the race for the White House should Trump become their party’s nominee has understandably raised questions about how thoroughgoing and enduring their opposition to him will prove to be. The other Republican candidates are still promising to support Trump in the general election, and presumably some stalwart-seeming #NeverTrumpers will fall into line as well.

Another, better reason to doubt that #NeverTrump is more than a strategic effort to defeat Trump in the primary—rather than in the general election—can be found in the Senate, where #NeverTrump sentiment is about to come into exquisite tension with the Republican Party’s determination to deny President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a fair hearing.

The tactics #NeverTrump conservatives demand of Senate Republicans are of a piece with the reactionary maximalism that gave rise to the Trump phenomenon in the first place. The person who will determine whether this final act of resistance to Obama will hold together is Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and thus controls whether Obama’s nominee will receive confirmation hearings, fair or otherwise. Grassley faces reelection this year and will likely be running against a formidable Democratic opponent. Obama is reportedly vetting Jane Kelly, an appellate court judge from Iowa whom Grassley has praised effusively in the past. So there’s a great deal of countervailing pressure on Grassley to break ranks from the rest of the GOP—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who holds that the next president should get to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

How is Grassley responding to that pressure? By arguing in essence that not confirming Obama’s nominee is a compromise between liberal forces who want the seat filled according to custom and the forces of reaction that “come to my town meetings and say, ‘Why don’t you impeach those justices?’”

This is a microcosm of the Republican Party’s broader failure to cope with Obama’s presidency—which in turn gave rise to Trump, on whose behalf Grassley will apparently risk his Senate seat, fighting to hold the Supreme Court vacancy open for him. Confronted for seven years with wild-eyed derangement about all things Obama, Republicans have responded by indulging rather than disclaiming it.

Grassley was the most prominent senator to vouchsafe the lie that the Affordable Care Act would contain “death panels.” Four years later, Republicans shut down the government in a show of resistance to the law’s implementation. More recently, Republicans have gotten themselves wrapped around the axle by an anti-Planned Parenthood agitprop campaign, orchestrated by people who are now indicted for tampering with government records.

These episodes of ill-fated intransigence define the Obama-era GOP, and they’ve laid the predicate for Trump to take over the party by promising to be a better fighter. The storylines collide on Capitol Hill, where Republicans, who desperately want to stop Trump, are now effectively united behind the purpose of letting him shape the Supreme Court for a generation.

And just as with the Republicans’ previous kamikaze missions—the government shutdown, the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood—this instance of pandering to reactionaries will also fail spectacularly, when Trump loses the general election in a landslide, and Hillary Clinton fills the open Supreme Court seat with whomever she wants.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, March 14, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arguments Both Indefensible And Dishonest”: Senate Republicans Debunk Their Own Supreme Court Talking Points

Senate Republicans have had about a month to come up with a coherent rationale for imposing a blockade on any Supreme Court nominee from President Obama. The fact that they’ve failed so spectacularly to think of anything sound is probably a bad sign.

But the fact that they’re starting to debunk their own talking points is far worse.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, a wide variety of Republicans repeated this line about the merits of a partisan blockade: “This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don’t move forward.”

Today, another Republican senator – who actually supports his party’s strategy – acknowledged that his party’s argument was a lie. The Huffington Post noted:

One of the Republican Party’s most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.

 And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.

Graham conceded, “We are setting a precedent here today,” even after weeks of GOP rhetoric about how they’re just following an existing precedent. The South Carolina Republican added that his party’s current gambit would establish a “new rule” – effectively admitting that such a rule is not currently in place.

The comments were held during a Judiciary Committee discussion about why the Judiciary Committee will refuse to have a discussion about the Supreme Court nomination that does not currently exist.

Graham’s unexpected concession made his party’s arguments look both indefensible and dishonest, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went even further in discrediting his own party’s claims. TPM reported:

During a Thursday morning radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) candidly explained that Senate Republicans would take a different approach to a Supreme Court nominee if a Republican president were in office and replacing a conservative justice.

 Johnson was asked on Wisconsin radio show “Morning Mess” about Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s forthcoming nomination to the Supreme Court. The host hypothesized that things would be different if Mitt Romney were in the White House.

The far-right Wisconsin senator, up for re-election this year, said it would be “different” if a Republican president were currently in office. As Johnson put it, “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing – if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”

He added, “But when you’re talking about a conservative justice now being replaced by a liberal president who would literally flip the court – you know, let’s face it, I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion – President Obama’s nominee would flip the court from a 5-4 conservative to a 5-4 liberal controlled court…. And so it’s an incredibly serious moment in terms of what’s the composition of the court going to be.”

In other words, as far as Johnson’s concerned, pleasant-sounding rhetoric about principles and Senate norms and traditions is all just window dressing. President Obama is a Democrat, and since Antonin Scalia was a conservative, Ron Johnson believes the constitutional process should be ignored for the most brazenly partisan reasons.

I’m honestly not sure if Senate Republicans are even trying anymore. They made up a “Schumer Rule,” which turned out not to make any sense. They made up a “Biden Rule,” which proved the opposite of the GOP’s intended point. They pointed to a “Thurmond Rule,” which kind of exists, but doesn’t apply here. Republicans made up an 80-year “tradition” out of whole cloth, which Lindsey Graham now concedes doesn’t exist.

They blamed the blockade on the “nuclear option,” which was ridiculously dishonest. They said this is payback for Robert Bork, which made even less sense.

And now a prominent Senate Republican is admitting publicly that the party’s professed principles are irrelevant and the party would be acting differently if the president weren’t a Democrat.

Why not simply drop the pretense and admit that the party is being craven?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 10, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Lindsey Graham, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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