White House-GOP duel over SCOTUS pick intensifies

Senate GOP leadership moved swiftly this week to quiet whispers among some of its members in the upper chamber who had expressed a willingness to entertain a “lame-duck” period consideration of Mr. Obama’s choice of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Few Republicans are willing to oppose majority leaders on the matter of a nominee selection for the vacant court seat; however, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was willing to hazard drawing the fury of his GOP cohorts.

“The only position I’ve had is, ‘Hey, I’m concerned about the direction of the court,’ and so if we come to a point where we’ve lost the election and we can get a centrist like Garland in there as opposed to someone like Hillary Clinton might appoint, then I’d go for it” Flake told reporters on Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited the “Biden Rule,” a reference to then-Senator Joe Biden’s remarks stating President George H.W. Bush should follow tradition and not submit a nominee to the Senate should a vacancy emerge in the High Court in 1992.

McConnell reiterated his stance no confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court pick will be held, a position shared by Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

“The Senate will continue to observe the ‘Biden Rule’ so the American people have a voice in this momentous decision,” McConnell said.

Seconding the Majority Leader’s words, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was equally intransigent.

“It doesn’t matter if Obama would nominate George W. Bush. We should not be taking the nomination, considering the nomination of a president who is on his way out. We should let the people speak, and the argument is right. And we’re going to do that.”

Responding to GOP dilatory tactics, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed to press for hearings.

“Do it now. Why wait? To hold up a nomination so that Donald Trump can give a nomination? That should scare everybody.”

President Obama demanded the Senate “play it straight.”

“It is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics, the squabbling that’s going on in the news every day. But to go down that path would be wrong. It would be a betrayal of our best traditions and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents,” Obama said.

 Analysis

This is the White House and the Senate playing politics at its worst.

If Judge Garland is as eminently qualified SCOTUS pick as Mr. Obama insists, why was he ignored in favor of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan for two previous vacancies on the High Court?

For Harry Reid, who has repeatedly questioned Senate inaction on a potential nominee, this is the apex of false virtue: Reid’s adamantine approach to governing as Majority Leader included completely shutting down the Senate between 2011-15 and doing his level best to strangle debate, endlessly invoking the procedural maneuver “filling the amendment tree” to prevent GOP-sponsored legislation from being heard.

In 2013 alone, under Reid’s leadership, the Senate did not pass a single appropriations or jobs bill.

As is his grating habit, and with the roles reversed, Reid’s rhetorical savagery is aroused: Reid mocks his opponents for the same sluggish leadership he illustrated as leader in the Senate.

Why give the Democrats a weapon to bludgeon the GOP?

The GOP is equally culpable and fallible: Neglecting their vital responsibilities to facilitate a court system which properly functions, McConnell, Grassley and Ryan could suffer for their infantile behavior.

While the GOP may withstand a torrent of criticism and survive injury over Mr. Obama’s sacrificial lamb, history should serve as a reminder the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings verified the wrath of the electorate in November 1992 and witnessed the ushering in of a wave of Democrats in both chambers and the election of Bill Clinton.

 

[republican.senate.gov] [politifact.com] [The Hill] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Salon.com]

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