Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Republicans in Congress have done some dangerously radical things, but this, if it happens, might top them all:
Mitch McConnell Is Already Threatening To Block The Next President’s Supreme Court Nominee Too

Just hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he would confirm no one President Obama nominates to fill Scalia’s seat. “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” according to a statement McConnell released shortly after news of Scalia’s death became public.

Now, however, McConnell appears to be having second thoughts -- not about blocking Obama’s nominee; he’s fully committed to that position -- but about whether it is a good idea to allow the next president to fill the seat either:

That report is from Ian Millhiser at Think Progress, who goes on to point out that quite a few Supreme Court justices are getting along in years, and if enough of them die or retire during the next presidential term and the vacancies aren't filled because the Senate is Republican and the president is Democratic, we may have a Supreme Court that is legally unable to function:
Under federal law, “the Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, any six of whom shall constitute a quorum,” so if four seats become vacant there will no longer be enough justices to form the quorum necessary to decide cases.
As Jonathan Chait pointed out over the weekend, that really could happen:
The Constitution’s instructions that the Senate “advise and consent” on nominees to the courts and the executive branch has meant different things at different times. Sometimes, the Senate has given the president wide latitude to appoint justices of a similar bent.... Other times, the Senate has withheld its consent from nominees deemed too extreme -- though no party had yet proposed or adopted blanket opposition to any nominee from the opposing party, until now....

A handful of purple-state Republican senators have made conciliatory noises, but it would require 14 Republicans to join with all 46 Democrats to overcome a filibuster of an Obama Court nominee....

If Hillary Clinton wins in November and Republicans retain the Senate, they may feel shamed by their promises to let the voters decide the Court’s next nominee and give her a justice. Or maybe not -- maybe some dastardly Clinton campaign tactic, or reports of voter fraud on Fox News, will make them rescind their promise....

A world in which Supreme Court justices are appointed only when one party has both the White House and the needed votes in Congress would look very different from anything in modern history. Vacancies would be commonplace and potentially last for years. When a party does break the stalemate, it might have the chance to fill two, three, four seats at once. The Court’s standing as a prize to be won in the polls would further batter its sagging reputation as the final word on American law. How could the Court’s nonpolitical image survive when its orientation swings back and forth so quickly?
I think a Democratic Senate in 2017 would ultimately approve a Republican president's Court nominee, although a pick or two might be rejected first. Or maybe the Democrats would just dig in their heels the way McConnell is threatening to. On the other hand, I strongly suspect that a Republican Senate won't approve a Democratic president's nominees no matter who they are, and no matter how long the seat or seats have remained vacant, a stalemate that could well last for two four-year terms.

So we really might not have a Supreme Court by 2024.

At this point, I don't put anything past Republicans.They care about nothing but power (although I'm sure they'd insist that they only act the way they do because they're the sole defenders of a Constitution that's routinely trashed by the Democrats). Republicans are never punished for this at the polls, because Democrats never directly the blame at the GOP, and mainstream journalists and pundits -- and therefore most voters -- routinely decry partisanship in the abstract rather than Republican intransigence. If the next president is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, this war is only going to get bloodier. And the High Court really might be as casualty.


AllieG said...

In such a case, I believe Democrats would be justified in telling their Senate colleagues we will advise the President to govern without Congress, setting his/her own budgets, naming his/her own cabinet members without confirmation and we will acquit him/her upon impeachment. You want an elected dictatorship, try ours on for size.

Unknown said...

These developments are such a clear indication of the difference between Democrats and Republicans -- namely that Democrats actually believe IN government, believe in its usefulness, believe in its importance for ordinary citizens, believe that it needs to work and function for the common good and not for some abstracted phony concept of "freedom," etc.

Unknown said...

And I should add that this difference explains, I think, the differing reactions of each party to the other's transgressions. The Republicans call for impeachment, whereas the Democrats are more likely to continue to respect the offices that the transgressors occupy. There was no big hue and cry for Bush to be impeached for the Iraq war and its lies. There were many critiques, but often I could not find as much criticism from the Democrats of the Republicans that would satisfy my own hungry soul in those perilous days. I would argue that these reactions follow from the underlying respect (or not) for governing itself.

Greg said...

Republicans are never punished for this at the polls

In the VRWC (and enabling media) they still trust, apparently. We'll see how much turning the obstructionist arrogance up to 11 confirms that trust or not, in the next couple of years.

Tom said...

Republicans have never paid a price for their obstruction because they have, up to now, not done anything like this in an election year. The debt ceiling fiasco and government shutdowns and impeachments about blowjobs were always yesterday's news by the time an election rolls around. Not this time.

Obama is not going to take this without a huge fight, a fight that will go on right up to elections day. If he can make Republican obstruction an election issue - and I do not doubt he can - we'll see whether the Republicans pay.

"We need the Supreme Court," Obama will say. "What if this election is like the one we had in 2000?"

Somebody get Obama a SuperPac.

BKT said...

I love how "Conservatives" who revere the Constitution above all else are so willing to provoke a Constitutional crisis over something so banal and baldly partisan. Pathetic.

I fully support AllieG's remedy. Bring it on, Republicans-- and then try to enforce your branch's check and balance response with harsh tweets and gnashing of teeth on Sunday morning talk shows.

Feud Turgidson said...

Fully support or not, neither President O nor a HC would go there.

A Senate D Leader Schumer, whether in minority or majority, wouldn't support it either; nor would Pelosi, I expect, nor either would whoever succeeds Pelosi, in the depressingly most likely event of the Rs retaining the House gavel, I'd expect.

If one goes thru not just the Cook Political Report but several of the more historically reliable or at least rational & connected prognosts on what will happen in November with the Senate, there are up to 11 seats currently held by Rs that 'could', not entirely implausibly, switch control.

Of those, my guess keeps wavering, but IMO it looks more like 6 with a decent shot, just enough to offset scary looking prospects in a couple that are currently D, including Reid's in Nevada. Of those, 4 look actually probable to switch to D, and it's not at all implausible that none switch from D. With Bernie back in the Senate plus Angus King, that gets Schumer to 50 plus a President HC's veep. So, as long as Schumer proves to have the balls and wit to extend to the SCOTUS what Reid did with the Senate's own rules on review of federal judicial appointments below the SCOTUS, there'd be a shot. It'd require the so-called "nuclear option", but that, I think, is at the full reach of Senate D radicalism.

If the Ds win the presidency - I still think they will, more than ever given what Ds SHOULD be able to do with this vacancy gambit, even despite the record-busting fraud I anticipate taking place this cycle - yet fail to take back the Senate (if only because the R fraud schemes work way better at the state level), then I can certainly see Steve M.'s anxiety being realized.

Of course, if the Ds lose the presidency AND fail to retake the Senate, this goose is cooked. It'll be a bigger Columbia with nukes plus the biggest army on the planet after ants, termites, and fungae. It'll be the Roman Republic headed towards Julius Caesar and his Augustine inheritors, with Trump or Cruz as the bridge to the new CSA - the white Christian States of America.

From Wikipedia on Sheev Palpatine:
"a charismatic Senator from Naboo who uses deception and political manipulation to rise to the position of Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic". That's gotta be Cruz. Even if Trump were to win this time, Cruz would succeed him.

But, fuggit, it's your problem then, because life's too freaking short to keep putting up with this ongoing horseshit march to fascist Amerika.

Ten Bears said...

The Retards just elected Clinton.

Victor said...

I think the "Cold Civil War" will now get much, much hotter!

On top the existing voter suppression efforts, I can see gangs of armed white thugs acting very threateningly in urban and minority areas to further help suppress the votes there.

And if them Dem's do win, the first thing the new President will need to make sure of, is that the canons at Fort Sumter are still disabled. *

*And yeah, I know that many, if not most, major military facilities in this country are in Red States, so finding a new Sumter shouldn't be too difficult for the New Confederacy.

Unknown said...

Mitch McConnell is a rogue legislator, and has been all through the Obama presidency, and before. He absolutely personifies the utter intellectual dishonesty of the GOP, and the "politics at any price" it is willing to pay, even at the expense of basic constitutional principles.

My own view is that the Dems should treat him as a complete scoundrel, and not be reticent in describing him publicly as someone who routinely violates his oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution. A day should not pass without a Dem pointing out his excesses, and relentlessly criticizing him for them. The man and his confederates should be treated as genuine enemies of the federal government, with no quarter given.

If the Senate returns to the Dems, "comity" should go out the window. It is simply not possible to treat in good faith with this snake.