With small cracks emerging in the Republican Supreme Court blockade -- and private indications from some GOP senators that they’d likely back Merrick Garland if he ever did come up for a vote -- the White House is preparing to press its perceived political advantage when senators return from their recess next week....But I think the Mitch McConnell/Chuck Grassley plan is working exactly the way it was supposed to:
White House aides say they have been surprised that they’ve made as much progress as they have in the two weeks since President Barack Obama nominated Garland. And while they’re still skeptical Garland will get anywhere near being confirmed, the West Wing does at least see a path forward, if only for strengthening the case they'll make against Republican senators going into the fall elections.
Senator Mark S. Kirk of Illinois on Tuesday became the first Republican to meet with Judge Merrick B. Garland and said he hoped the meeting would influence other Republicans to at least sit down with President Obama’s choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy despite pressure from party leaders not to consider his nomination.Yes, fourteen GOP senators -- approximately one third of the Republicans in the Senate -- have said they'd be willing to meet with Garland. (Politico's count is sixteen.) Yes, like Kirk, Susan Collins of Maine has said she thinks Garland should get a hearing.
“We need rational, adult, open-minded consideration of the constitutional process,” said Mr. Kirk, who is perhaps the most endangered Senate Republican up for re-election this fall. “He’s been duly nominated by the elected president of the United States to fill a vacancy which we know exists on the court.”
With Judge Garland by his side, Mr. Kirk praised Mr. Obama’s pick as “one of the most eminent judges in the country.”
“I think when you just say, ‘I’m not going to meet with him,’ that’s too close-minded,” Mr. Kirk said.
But by moving the Overton window as far to the right as they did from the start, Mitch McConnell's Republicans turned just talking to the guy into the moderate position. Swing voters in Illinois will now associate Kirk not with intransigence but with reasonableness, even though he's still a duly pledged Republican who'll vote to keep McConnell in the Majority Leader position if he's reelected.
You say, "No vote, no hearings, no meetings with the nominee"; you settle for "No vote, no hearings," or, if the pressure mounts, just "No vote." And it looks as if you're moderating.
It's the Art of the Deal, GOP style. And it'll probably keep Garland off the Court and save the jobs of vulnerable Republican senators.