On second thought, maybe it's okay to be obstructionist after all.
Last week, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) warned his Republican colleagues not to reject a Supreme Court nominee from
The pledge — written in a letter to Senate Majority Leader
It's not at all surprising that Republicans would rather wait to see what happens in the election than let a Democrat fill Scalia's seat now — and presumably shift the court's majority from conservative to liberal. It's just puzzling that they would do it this way, leaping headfirst into the very trap that Tillis noted just a few days ago.
Now, I don't buy for a moment the argument some
But if this crazy primary season demonstrates anything, it's that voters are fed up with Washington and politics as usual. And for the last five years, "politics as usual" has meant partisan head-butting and recalcitrance, dysfunction and paralysis.
So now a cadre of Republicans say they are preemptively slamming the brakes on the advice-and-consent process, threatening to leave the Supreme Court shorthanded well into its 2016-2017 term. With the remaining eight justices evenly divided on a host of important legal issues, the freeze in Congress could translate into a bevy of 4-4 deadlocks.
The Judiciary Committee Republicans said they were motivated by a desire "to ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time." This is, of course, claptrap. Republicans don't want the
And it's transparently claptrap. The political considerations on both sides are unmistakable. So why did the lawmakers tip their hands this way? Why not simply slow-roll the process? Hold off a hearing for several months, then use that session to try to undermine the nominee — as the Democrats did to
A more honest explanation came from Sen.
And yes, one can find Democrats posturing in similar ways in past election years, although not when confronted with an actual Supreme Court vacancy. One example is Obama's vice president,
But again, that's just politics as usual -- finger-pointing and "They did it first" accusations. And if that sort of thing played well with the public, more establishment figures like Graham would still be in the race.
Obama could bail the Republicans out by striking a deal with McConnell that would allow the president to make a recess appointment to the court. That justice would serve until the end of 2017 unless the Senate confirmed him or her next year. And because McConnell controls whether the Senate ever goes into recess, he could prevent Obama from putting anyone on the court even temporarily who was not acceptable to Senate Republicans.
Such a move would reduce the potency of the "obstructionist" argument, but it's hard to see any incentive for Obama to go that route. Rather than making a recess appointment, expect him to nominate someone with impeccable credentials who's been supported by Republicans and Democrats alike in the past. And then expect him to use some variation of the word "obstructionist" just about every time he faces a microphone.