In opposing Garland’s nomination, Republicans double down on their phony ‘principle’

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday.

I don’t really claim to know whether Senate Republicans are really sorry about the hole they’ve dug themselves into with their hoked-up “principle” that they can’t consider a Supreme Court nomination during the last year of a president’s term. But sure enough, right after Wednesday’s post in which I said that they would have a hard time reversing course once they had declared it to be a sacred and long-standing principle, Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor and doubled down, saying the Merrick Garland nomination didn’t change anything because it wasn’t about a person, it was about a principle.

Even Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior member of the Judiciary Committee and a huge, outspoken admirer of Judge Garland, is sticking to his previous pledge not to even allow a hearing on the nomination.

It would have been refreshingly honest, right after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, if the Republicans had just said plainly what everyone understood: If the circumstances had been the same except that the president in the last year of her term had been a Republican, we would already be having hearings — and very likely the Democrats would be trying to slow things down in hopes of getting to the next presidency, which they would hope would be a Democratic presidency.

Hatch expressed himself (among other places, no doubt) in a segment on my favorite news program, the we-dare-to-to-be-dull PBS NewsHour, and the Judiciary Committee Democrat who got a chance to express the opposite point of view was Minnesotan Al Franken, who did a good job. Franken thinks the Republican wall will crack, and may already have started cracking, as some Republicans have suggested they might be willing to have a private meeting with Garland. I’m skeptical, but we’ll see.

If you’d like to watch that Hatch and Franken segment, I’ve put it below.

For those who wonder whether I’m going overboard in my dismissal of the Republican claim to have history and precedent and principle on their side on this, I should concede that only rarely over recent decades has the Senate confirmed a nominee in the eighth year of a two-term president’s tenure. But that’s because there have been so few such vacancies.

Turnover on the Supreme Court is relatively rare. Many justices apparently time their retirements to avoid a situation like the current one. Scalia couldn’t help it. He just died. But I repeat my favorite fact on the subject, which doesn’t get nearly the attention it should:

The Republicans have not and cannot cite a single case in which a president declined to nominate a candidate for any opening on the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was the eighth year of their presidency and it was important to let the voters weigh in. Nor can they cite a single instance — before this one — in which the Senate refused to consider such a nomination. Seems like a fairly big problem for the claim that this is a long-standing and well-established practice or principle.

OK, here’s the NewsHour segment, including the Hatch and Franken interviews.

Comments (66)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/17/2016 - 09:56 am.

    How Much Gusto

    Will progressive groups have for a Republican Lite SCOTUS nominee? Will they really go to the mat for this guy?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/17/2016 - 10:37 am.

      The Republicans

      will save them the trouble.
      Since they’ll never allow the nomination to proceed, they’ll be no mat to go to.
      And while Garland would be to the right of the Progressive wing of the court, he’d still be far to the left of Scalia, so the Court as a whole will have shifted to the Left.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2016 - 09:56 am.

    History and precedent

    Why should history and precedent have anything to do with senators doing their job? They aren’t a court, they aren’t ruled by stare decisis.

    The rationalizations for not giving Garland a hearing are laughable, and Republicans should be given some credit at least for being able to maintain straight faces while making them, but the fact is, they made a decision for political reasons, and are now stuck with the consequences. Their decision to abandon political flexibility means they have to turn down a judge who would otherwise be acceptable to them, and who might be better than any alternative they might be offered after the November election.

  3. Submitted by Phil Dech on 03/17/2016 - 10:26 am.

    How much do you want to bet

    that this “principle” will melt away if Clinton or Sanders wins in November, as they rush to get him confirmed before Jan. 20, 2017?

    • Submitted by Maria Jette on 03/17/2016 - 12:04 pm.

      fascinating new angle…

      What a thought! Quite right, Phil– I could easily see the Rightists grasping Garland as a last straw. Then again, the Republican leadership’s actions lately seem to be built on sheer vitriol, rather than actual strategy, so their “principle” might decree that they never, never, EVER confirm any Supreme nomination coming from a Democratic president. The McConnell era is going to look utterly surreal to future historians, assuming America (and the rest of the world) survives long enough to HAVE a future.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/17/2016 - 01:15 pm.

      And of course

      Obama could then withdraw his nomination and leave it up to Clinton to nominate someone younger and more progressive.

  4. Submitted by chuck holtman on 03/17/2016 - 10:36 am.

    May I emphasize again

    That aside from, and more fundamental than, what history tells us about the Republican claim, the claim is incoherent.

    The fact that the President appoints Supreme Court justices cannot be understood as a founders’ intent that the appointment to some degree reflect the disposition of the electoral populace. The reason is that the appointment is lifetime. Until a month ago, Mr Scalia was deciding cases. How did our present electoral populace get to weigh in on his appointment? Not at all, obviously, except to the extent that 30 years ago, Mr Reagan pondered how Mr Scalia’s jurisprudence might suit folks in 2016. And as we know, at the time Mr Reagan wasn’t pondering much of anything.

    Perhaps our resident scholars can educate us on why the founders specifically resided the Supreme Court appointment power in the President, but I’m guessing the chief reason is that someone has to do it. When a vacancy arises, it falls to the sitting President. Some appoint none, some appoint more than one. There’s nothing democratic about it. Supreme Court justices should deliberate above the political fray, and in a functioning democracy, a President will make appointments based on the qualities a justice should have, which don’t have to do with political orientation.

    This, of course, is not the democracy we have today. Nevertheless, no one has any business thinking the arguments of the Republicans are sincere.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/17/2016 - 10:42 am.

    The rest of the story….

    Why no mention of the Biden, Obama, and Schumer statements regarding a potentially similar situation arising with a GOP President?

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/17/2016 - 11:26 am.

      Because it doesn’t matter

      That was speculation. This is reality.

      This matters.

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/17/2016 - 11:37 am.

        so…

        So why no mention of the “speculative threats” given in a possible similar situation when the GOP had the presidency?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/17/2016 - 11:40 am.

      Refresh Our Memories

      How many nominees from GOP Presidents were blocked by Biden, Obama, and Schumer? How many were even appreciably delayed?

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/17/2016 - 01:48 pm.

        RB

        Not “blocked” quite yet. This is Day 2.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/17/2016 - 02:29 pm.

          Day 2, and Counting

          You have more faith in the Senate than I do. Of course, it is entirely possible that there enough adults in the Senate (the minimum age is still 30, right?) that McConnell would be defied and the nomination be allowed to proceed at least as far as a hearing.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/17/2016 - 03:32 pm.

            Yes

            I heard today that some Senate Republicans are questioning the McConnell position, maybe forming in opposition. That’s pretty quick fallout anytime on any Day 2, and recognition of personal political realities, it seems.

            It’s quite politically possible, as well, that leadership (OK, please refrain here) is waiting for convention nomination first. That makes some political sense in this year’s race, I believe.

            Besides, SCOTUS effectively finishes its business in two months, with June recess. In “normal” years, the Senate recesses in July. This or any other Presidential year, nothing much would occur in either party until after November, if then, depending on legislative priorities.

            Certainly hearings should take place after both party conventions, but this year is certainly not typical, as most seem to agree. As noted the other day, the business calendars of all parties in this action would likely preclude seating any new Justice until SCOTUS returns in October.

            I’m fine with waiting for convention realities on both sides, with hearings commencing soon thereafter, whenever that might be. All the sturm und drang right now is typically theatrical, as far as I’m concerned. Why be upset with “play acting”?

            Washington is home to the Tony Award winning theater: Arena Stage.
            The Congressional outfit hasn’t won any awards lately, that I know.

  6. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/17/2016 - 10:53 am.

    From yesterday:

    “On the whole, Eric seems to have gained flexibility I don’t recall from earlier days.”

    Yesterday it was “tradition,” today “principal.”
    Thanks for this flexibility of more accurate recognition.

    Kinda feeling you are pushing this little pin point rather too hard, Eric. And, you become rather circular in arguing little history of year eight actions vs. dismissing “principals.” It’s pretty presumptuous to judge principals (certainly traditions) given no past examples. Please do not fall back into flackdom. That’s the specialty realm of cable contributors.

    President Obama finally made the required first move in this political chess game. [maybe shouldn’t be chess, but always is] These tournament rules set the clock at November, so we may just have to wait for that move or default.

    I fully understand it takes far more strokes to beat an elephant than to beat a donkey; however, it seems time to beat on something else, at least for now. Believe you should have left this one on the hard drive today to await actions rather than rhetoric.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/17/2016 - 10:55 am.

    The Biden Rule

    “President Bush should consider following the practice of the majority of his predecessors and not, and not, name a nominee until after the November election is completed.” – Joe Biden 1992

    It was amusing and ironic that a smiling Joe Biden stood behind Obama and Garland while Garland was being introduced.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/17/2016 - 12:16 pm.

      Biden Rules!

      Since when did Republicans -ever- hold up Joe Biden as an example to follow?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/17/2016 - 12:25 pm.

      Biden Revisited

      Was there a SCOTUS vacancy in the fall of 1992 when Biden said that? Oh that’s right, there was none. Biden was speaking about the possibility of a sitting justice gaming the system by resigning before Bush lost the fall election.

    • Submitted by Sean Huntley on 03/18/2016 - 01:47 pm.

      Not the same thing

      “President Bush should consider following the practice of the majority of his predecessors and not, and not, name a nominee until after the November election is completed.” – Joe Biden 1992

      This is a fine example of talking point BS

      Lets address some of the differences here.

      Biden said that in JUNE of 92.
      Biden said nominate after the election.
      Biden never said a nominee would not be given hearings and a vote.

      McConnell said in FEBRUARY that Obama should not nominate anyone at any time.
      McConnell said in FEBRUARY that no hearings or vote will be held on any nominee.

      So, no matter how much you stretch, what Biden said is in no way, shape or form analogous to the obstructionism being perpetrated by McConnell.

  8. Submitted by tom weist on 03/17/2016 - 11:27 am.

    Sauce for the goose?

    This is just more Republican hypocrisy. Not only is there no tradition of denying votes on justices in the last year of office, but the senate’s tradition for it’s own members is just the opposite. Lame duck senators still get a vote. For important votes, senators who won’t be alive next week, much less next year, are summoned from their deathbeds.

  9. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/17/2016 - 12:07 pm.

    Congress members gave an oath to “uphold the Constitution”.

    Like most things, these days, they got it backwards.

    They heard “Hold-up the constitution”, as in delay, obstruct, and steal parts of it.

    Where’s your d*** originalist Contitutionalists these days?

    Oh, I forgot, it’s only important when you want it to be.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2016 - 12:19 pm.

    I just signed a petition

    Over on Facebook I just signed a petition demanding that congress shut down until the election is over because 436 (or thereabouts) Haven’t been re-elected yet so they have not business passing laws. LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/18/2016 - 12:46 pm.

      Umm…

      That could backfire. After all, they’re already not doing anything.

      What bothers me about the whole thing is that the Senate’s job is to advise and consent (or not) any judicial nominations by the President. However, the “leadership” of the GOP is preventing the Senate from the opportunity to advise and consent by refusing to even put the nomination before the Senate. It seems to me that a handful of Republicans are usurping the Constitutional authority of the Senate as a whole.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/19/2016 - 04:19 am.

        Advising…

        Yes, that’s pretty open-ended in intent and practice. I suppose one might fundamentally view McConnell’s statements as advisory…strongly advisory.

        I suppose one might suggest he “advised” Mr. Obama not to put up a nominee, “advising” him not to use, I suppose, “lame duck” tactics. And, I guess we could say that Obama did not take McConnell’s “advice.”
        So, we are now in the political haze between “advise” and “consent.”

        As mentioned previously, I’m simply not about to get excited about this until after each party convention. Those will be enough distraction. I sort of bet both parties do also prefer to leave any confirmation process until after those media dust bowls.

        Most Americans vote for parties, not for specific candidates. The People will judge all this stuff on personal relativity scales. We don’t need to be outraged by standard maneuvers, especially in a year that offers citizens direct actions of recourse.

        Maybe everyone should resist all media dog wagging.

  11. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/17/2016 - 12:22 pm.

    Has anyone suggested an impeachment movement, or a recall effort, to remove from office those Republican Senators who refuse to undertake NOW their Constitutional responsibility to hold hearings on this Supreme Court nomination? They are refusing categorically to “advise” on the nomination. No one’s asking these die-hard partisan ideologues to “consent” (they block everything Obama says, even that “today is Thursday” or whatever).

    Do they understand how foolish they look on TV, saying what they’re saying? Pure Alice in Wonderland.

    Despite the extraordinary slap in Garland’s face that not even meeting with him conveys, the GOP insult here is not to the nominee: It’s to our black President. Let’s be clear on that part of this farce by the Republicans.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2016 - 01:03 pm.

      “Has anyone suggested an impeachment movement, or a recall effort, to remove from office those Republican Senators who refuse to undertake NOW their Constitutional responsibility to hold hearings on this Supreme Court nomination?”

      It’s generally thought you can’t impeach a member of Congress. If you don’t like what your representative or senator is doing, the solution is work for, and vote for, someone else.

      Some folks are spending time trying to figure out what obligation the senate has to consider President Obama’s nomination. It’s my opinion that they are obliged to take it up, but that there is no way to force them to take it up. If there is a wrong, the remedy lies with the voters.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/17/2016 - 01:41 pm.

      Or a lawsuit

      Could they be sued?

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2016 - 02:50 pm.

        Suit

        There are a lot of problems with a suit. But basically, it’s not the role of one branch of government to dictate to another branch of government to go about it’s business. And how would the Supreme Court go about enforcing an injunction against Congress? Would it send federal marshals over to Capitol Hill, roust the senators out of their offices and chain them to desks in the senate?

        This is a democracy, and questions as to how elected representatives do their jobs are for the voters to resolve. If you think your legislator isn’t doing his or her job, the remedy is to elect someone else. That shouldn’t be a decision left to others, thoroughly unelected judges to name one possibility.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/17/2016 - 04:43 pm.

          Citizens

          I guess I was thinking of a lawsuit by citizens. After all, a lawsuit requires an injured party if I understand things correctly. I think it could be argued that citizens have standing here as “injured parties” since a refusal to carry out Constitutionally mandated duties to keep our country running hurts us all (or something along those lines).

          • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2016 - 06:56 am.

            Standing

            There are standing issues too. I didn’t want to get into that because it’s kind of inside baseball. The problem with standing here is that no individual is injured differently than anyone else therefore no one has “standing” to bring a suit. It’s a complex,somewhat old fashioned doctrine which I personally feel is just a rationale for an underlying policy but it’s out there. The Scalia Supreme Court which acted like a super legislature, composed of members who were freed of the obligation to go door knocking, seemed to have little interest in the issue of standing.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/17/2016 - 03:44 pm.

      Impeachment

      Unfortunately, impeachment or removal of a member of Congress has to originate from within Congress.

      “Do they understand how foolish they look on TV, saying what they’re saying?” They don’t regard it as foolish. The fact that anyone with a lick of sense finds their antics ridiculous doesn’t matter. I suspect they are proud of it.

  12. Submitted by James Hamilton on 03/17/2016 - 12:34 pm.

    Ironic, isn’t it,

    that the party whose leading candidate for the presidential nomination, a man who has won that position by virtue of his claim that Washington is broken, should itself confirm the breadth of that damage.

    Those of us who think past the sound bites know perfectly well that this is not about tradition or principle but politics in their prime. We also know that both major parties have been equally guilty of acting out of self-interest rather than the national interest.

    Enough already. There are important matters to be decided by SCOTUS, today and in the months to come. Whatever Obama’s rationale for nominating Garland, the fact is that the man appears well qualified to sit on the court. Hold hearings, give the man an up or down vote and explain to the American public why you’ve voted as you have.

    I count myself among those who believe our system is badly broken and that both major parties have gone off their respective rails, one to the right and the other to the left. This view has been greatly reinforced by both the Republican candidates we’ve seen and my experience at my first-ever DFL caucus, where not a single resolution was rejected, no matter how badly conceived and constructed it may have been.

    Both parties are controlled by fringe elements, in my view. Unfortunately, the center has become anathema to the leadership of both parties and pragmatic negotiations virtually impossible unless it is clear that there is political advantage to both parties in making a deal.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/17/2016 - 01:45 pm.

      Off the rails

      I just heard Ted Cruz call Garland a liberal.

      Yup. Off the rails.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/17/2016 - 02:38 pm.

      Essentially in support of your thesis:

      Irony is my favorite mood these days.

      As I’ve acknowledged here in past posts, I am that center, with one foot on either side of the line, while leaning more one way sometimes, more the other some other times, depending on the atmosphere and topical propositions.

      For years those on the mid-right and mid-left have tried to bring me permanently over that line to “their side.” Those on the two shoulders would rather see me run over, so it seems. That’s really no concern, however, because I prefer to proceed on firm surfaces, not spin on gravel.

      To have open viewpoints apparently becomes either threatening or irrelevant to those extremities. That’s just fine by me. They can cross the traffic lanes to periodically assault each other, as they mostly do. So far, Independents appear to be a nuisance, not a target.

      Sorry, entrenchment serves no overall social purpose, mostly infecting everyone else with political trench mouth. e.g. 2016.

      Well considered words by you, Mr. Hamilton. Appreciated.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 03/17/2016 - 03:39 pm.

      Mr. Hamilton –

      With due respect, as regards your second paragraph, I am someone who thinks past the sound bites, and I very much disagree that “both major parties have been equally guilty of acting out of self-interest rather than the national interest.”

      I don’t support the policies of either party – each represents its own base of private wealth and power, and neither represents the interest of the people. But the Democrats still participate in the act of governance in a way that, if the Republicans did the same, would allow the nation to function, and at least take a shot at addressing some of its problems. Indeed, the Democratic party assuredly has not “gone off the rails” to the left. It has persisted in following the Republican party to the right since the mid-1970’s, and is very near to nominating for President a candidate who not very long ago would have been classified as a moderate Republican.

      I suggest, again respectfully, that false equivalence of the sort that I read in your comment (and that is the coin of the establishment media realm) is the primary cause of the dysfunction that you decry. When one “side” sees that its irresponsibility will be quickly stirred into a big pot of “both sides do it,” no consequence follows and it has no reason to change its behavior.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/17/2016 - 04:25 pm.

      Nope. Not going to buy the mantra that “both sides are at fault” or do equally bad things on our political stage. It’s very definitely the Republicans who are blocking things before anything’s even been presented to them. It’s the Republicans who pretend there’s a “tradition” of the Senate not even extending the courtesy of meeting with the nominee for the Supreme Court.

      ‘Catch the PBS clip where GOP Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Al Franken speak with Gwen Ifill about the SCOTUS nominee. Hatch is caught in his own contradictions and can’t quite get out of a memorized, and senseless, sound-bite where the GOP buries its head. By startling contrast, Franken shows both comity and collegiality, throws no bombs at anyone, makes room for Hatch and others like him to squiggle their way to reason and common sense–and real tradition–on this issue. A contrast in style and substance that shames the Republican obstructionism.

      Everybody says neither side “hears” the other. Well, a lot of us make the attempt, but are simply not persuaded by what we hear. That’s not the same thing as not listening or not reading.

      Sometimes today is Thursday, no how hard you try to spin it or cloud the issue. Sometimes a contrary political position is not extreme, it’s just opposite yours.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2016 - 01:15 pm.

    Checks and balances

    We talk about the checks and balances as if the two were identical. I suggest they are not. What might be happening is that we are in an era where the balance between the three branches of government are out of whack. For a long time now, Congress has been in a state of dysfunction. For an assortment of reasons, they have largely opted out of process of governing creating a vacuum, a sort of imbalance the other branches have been responding to. As a result, the Supreme Court has taken on the role of a super legislature modifying and setting health care policy. The executive branch has filled the vacuum by increasing use of executive orders filling in the various gaps congress has been unable to fill with legislation. The change recently in this balance comes with the passing of Justice Scalia which changes, and perhaps weakens the role of the Supreme Court.

    This idea of imbalance caused by the disappearance of Congress as an effective legislative force was demonstrated most vividly for me, when former Speaker Boehner, in responding to various actions of President Obama, chose not to respond legislatively as he had every right to do under the constitution, but by instituting a lawsuit, effectively asking the judicial branch to do the legislative work, the legislative branch was now incapable of doing. It was an announcement in very clear terms that the legislative branch was abdicating it’s responsibility to exercise the legislative power granted to it under First Article of the constitution.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/17/2016 - 07:01 pm.

      Balance Shift

      I mostly agree with your thoughts, Mr. Foster. De Facto, rather than de jury power has shifted to The Oval Office and to the Supreme Court more recently, it seems.
      My take regards service limits (there being no upward age limits).

      The Presidency is limited to 8 years now, since FDR’s short fourth term. The Supreme Court is a life appointment, with no significant urgency of office in general. The White House has naturally accrued more power through international affairs concentration for sure, also I think, through urgency of term limitation to get things done; hence, the expediency and expanded use of executive order, whether necessary or perhaps simply convenient. I believe backs believe the current administration may have used that route as much for convenience of personal objectives as for bothersome legislative process “inefficiency.”

      So, that leaves Congress: The Senate is allowed 6 year recurring terms given home voter dispositions. We all have observed that it takes major political wind storms to significantly reshape that membership at the core, even as the marginal majority swings somewhat.

      The House of Representatives stands stands for cyclic 2 year terms, without limitation limitation. While originally intended to be the most fluid group most close to its electorate, the House seems to have become the locus of volatility for both parties, by that very design. It’s not that the Representative is the most fickle of all, just that he/she is the most vulnerable (more than ever) to “grass roots” feelings, perceptions and…anger, as well as approval. By my reasoning, at least, the House should have become the most undependable and chaotic group as information exchange has rapidly developed (race) through their home districts.

      So, in partisan thinking, SCOTUS has inevitably become an ever more important source of philosophical longevity (power), therefore more abused by process. By the same reasoning of expediency regarding legislative/electoral dysfunction, Congress has become ever more unreliable in the view of any Oval Office CEO, there for a very brief visit with respect to the other branches.

      The bickering among and between Congresses and Executive Branches is legendary, if not quite so intense as today.

      It really is very troubling that Presidents, Senators and Representatives have made SCOTUS so vital to their political legacies (some more, some less, and all to a troubling degree).

  14. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 03/17/2016 - 02:18 pm.

    Chutzpah

    Let me get this straight. Hatch decries the toxic political climate and his cure is to make it more toxic.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2016 - 02:26 pm.

      It’s too easy

      For years conservative complained about what happened to Robert Bork, even turning it into a verb, “Borking”. Linda Greenhouse has an article in the Times about what really happened to Robert Bork. Contrary to popular belief he wasn’t filibusrered. Nor was he denied a hearing. According to contemporary accounts, doors were never slammed in his face, nor did senators hide from him in hallways as he passed by. He was given a full hearing before the opposition controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in which he had every opportunity to share his views. His nomination was voted down in committee yet contrary to the usual practice and at the request of President Nixon in was brought to the floor of the senate where it was once again voted down by senators of both parties.

      Let’s give the verb it’s due. Let’s “Bork” Merrick Garland.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2016 - 03:34 pm.

    If Obama really wanted to get around this..

    He could make it a recess appointment, he has until Friday to do so I think. The consequences are debatable but I’d like to see him do it just watch some heads explode. (figuratively)

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/17/2016 - 05:09 pm.

      He could

      But then he’d be ceding the high ground to the Republicans.
      So far he’s been playing strictly by the Constitutional rules — doing exactly what he should do, and leaving it to the Republicans to embarrass themselves by inventing rules and precedents that don’t exist.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/18/2016 - 09:22 am.

      Recess Appointment

      As long as the Senate is even technically in session with no sine die adjournment, he cannot make a recess appointment.

  16. Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/17/2016 - 06:37 pm.

    Don’t bug me. I’m trying to think.

    – Basic Senators (no leadership position) – $174,000

    – Majority and Minority Leaders – $193,400

    – President Pro Tempore – $223,500

    – Vice President (President of the Senate) – $230,700

    – Health Insurance (a selection of the best plans and lowest rates of any health care program in the nation);

    – Retirement (John Kline, for example, will be getting right around $50,000/yr for the rest of his life starting soon);

    – Personal Staff Allowance: Allows senators to hire staff to assist with clerical or other needs, both in Washington and in their district office. The number of employees hired can range anywhere from 26 to 60, with maximum pay per employee topping out at $156,848. Up to $75,000 of this allowance can be transferred to supplement the expense allowance.”

    http://www.therichest.com/celebnetworth/lists/celebrity-salary/senator-salary/

    Some mix of all that times 54 (Republican Senators) will provide a rough idea of how much it’s costing to have them not do their job.

    Imagine your salary is $174,000/year plus those benefits and you’ve got a hand-picked staff of 30 or 40 helping you do your job, each of them making an average of $120,000 or so and you just kind of tell the president and the board of directors,

    “No . . . I don’t care what the plan, the by-laws or my job description says and I don’t care what the customers or anyone around here says we need to get done: I’ve got a four-year deal and I’ve decided I won’t be doing what you’re talking about doing for at least next the seven or eight months, at the earliest. It will depend on how I think things are going and what kind of mood I’m in. So don’t waste your time pestering me about it until then. Will there be anything else? If not I’m going to head out of town for a couple weeks. This has all been making me feel a little put-out and pooped. I’ll have my people send you a memo when I get back.”

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/17/2016 - 07:11 pm.

      And All This Refusal to Do Their Jobs

      is coming from the party that continuously says,…

      “We have to run government like a business.”

      If they ran their businesses this same way,…

      I can understand why they left the business world,…

      to run for office.

      I guess when it comes to business, those who can, do,…

      and probably don’t need a lot of government subsidies and tax breaks to be successful,…

      and those who CAN’T (manage their way out of a paper bag),…

      run for office,…

      then pay for their campaigns by helping make successful,…

      those who weren’t any better at running honest businesses than those “conservative” politicians were.

      If the Senate were a business,…

      the Republican leadership would long since have been fired,…

      or that business would have gone under because of their lousy leadership.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/17/2016 - 09:47 pm.

      And add to your accounting

      roughly triple the income after they leave Congress and become lobbyists.

  17. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/17/2016 - 08:53 pm.

    In the end …

    you were elected to do the “peoples” business, not the party’s or your personal idealism, from this vantage point, the “R’s” have chosen to dessert the people and the constitution for their own personal interests/objectives, and all the “BS” generated will not cover up this dereliction of duty. .

  18. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/17/2016 - 11:49 pm.

    The GOP just keeps on giving

    Judge Garland and the GOP charade will likely be on SNL in all it’s glory Saturday night. McConnell is a master at painting himself in a corner. He’s the GOPs own jester.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2016 - 07:00 am.

    Negativity

    It can be charaterized as not doing one’s job, but the Republicans are largely an anti government party, and they were for the most part, sent to Washington to prevent the government from doing things. As critical as I often am of Republicans, criticizing them for doing what the folks who hired them want them to do, is like criticizing the knife for being sharp.

  20. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/18/2016 - 07:18 am.

    It would help

    If Mr. McConnel could tell us the limits of authority Senators have in their final months before the “people decide” who should fill those same offices in the next congress.

    Every GOP Senator up for reelection needs to have a thousand billboards in their home state with McConnel whispering in the ear of their current Senator and the caption:

    “Our Senior Senator or the third Senator from Kentucky? It’s your decision.”

  21. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2016 - 07:26 am.

    Judicial legislation

    What really scared me about the Scalia court was that to a shocking degree it assumed a legislative role, often in collaboration with political entities loosely organized as law firms.

    Courts in their nature, are passive entities. They don’t do stuff unless asked. If a judge hears that you are having a fight with the Mrs., he doesn’t stop by the house and ask if you want a divorce. But the Scalia court, and no doubt some would argue that it had happened before, changed that. That court seemed to search out legal and constitutional issues it wanted to address. I thought the health care cases were examples of that. The issues raised by Pat Berg are relevant here. The plaintiffs in those cases had no special interest at stake, weren’t hurt by the law. In some cases, according to news coverage they seemed to be surprised to find that they were plaintiffs, and didn’t have a very certain grasp at all of what the cases were about. They had been found by an activist law firm who didn’t do much more than fill in their names on the plaintiff line in the pleadings. The court took these cases, and then addressed issues of substantive health care policy. Substantive policy debate is in it’s essence a legislative, not a judicial function.

    I like to think of myself as a liberal politically. But I am not so liberal when it comes to matter of law, and I find no contradiction in that. Political issues really should be decided by the political branches of the government, you know, the ones where people are elected. I say that even when one or even all of those branches are controlled by a party I am not a member of. Now I don’t necessarily believe that should be the rule in every case, personal freedoms sometimes out weigh the government’s power to legislate, but it is something I believe for the most part.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/18/2016 - 08:50 am.

      Fully agree with you here…

      Political issues should (as intended, I believe) be decided by Congress given its closer public accountability as to terms–especially the House, as previously noted.

      Those rolling two-year terms seem to often only provide retro-active public accountability, as we saw after one party essentially “steamrolled” a major program into law a few years ago. Both sides do it, so the issue is systemic, not partisan.

      Perhaps legislation might be classified as to structural impact somehow, with the most norm-shifting given an effective date coming after the nearest House elections.

      It’s a good concept, I believe. Of course we’d have find that unique Congress that would impose upon itself more public accountability.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2016 - 10:32 am.

    Those rolling two-year terms seem to often only provide retro-active public accountability, as we saw after one party essentially “steamrolled” a major program into law a few years ago. Both sides do it, so the issue is systemic, not partisan.

    If by steamrolling, you mean passing legislation, yes indeed that is something Congress used to do. I am pretty sure if you ask any legislator who is a member of the minority party in a state legislature, they would tell you steamrolling is a fact of their legislative life. And quite rightly. If the voters wanted, for example, the views of my beloved Democrats to prevail in the Minnesota House to prevail, they wouldn’t have booted them out of the majority.

    “Perhaps legislation might be classified as to structural impact somehow, with the most norm-shifting given an effective date coming after the nearest House elections.”

    For me, one of the unnoticed ironies of our constitutional history is how the legislative branch, the first one provided for in the constitution, which I believe was intended by the founders to be the place where the governance of America was done, has worked so assiduously over the centuries to limit and render ineffective the power, the constitution grants to it. After 230 years of accumulated ineptitude, it can do little more than produce whiners on Sunday morning talk shows and law suits asking another branch of government to do what it is no longer capable of doing itself.

    How in the name of James Madison did we get ourselves in this fix? And is there any way, any possibility of finding a way out?

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/18/2016 - 11:05 am.

      No, I do not..

      The point surrounds abuse by super majorities to seize temporary total control in order to ram any major re-constructive legislation through in locked offices, with no progress reports regarding detail, just “We’re making progress” statements–and, with no adult concept of image damage to the institution. The public gets that, and reacts to reminders, as it does now to memories.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/18/2016 - 11:44 am.

      Hiram,

      I have since youth been a pragmatist, so I understand your Madison nod.

      Maybe it’s just the seeming current chaos in all the old and usual places we discuss daily finally getting to the usual non-observers of world affairs. The growing sense that the U.S. has become ineffectual has significantly created doubt and (perhaps) misplaced fear. Fact or myth is not the issue, but perception, false or not, truly is.

      Whoever becomes the next Oval Office caretaker really must focus on rather immediate effective actions that will sooth those rising fears. They are not “Trumpted” up, they are real and rising…and ripe for immediate exploitation, as we see and hear daily.

      As for us ever changing: As no congenital pessimist, I must also admit these recent three years of Mediterranean dysfunction (including EU vs Greece) have turned me back to my usual preference of global economic review. I set aside the Middle East muck then, having concluding no meaningful “progress” there.

      I certainly do understand the rising fear of the citizenry that cannot understand what has not been learned or honestly communicated for 50 years (our term of default care taking, unfortunately).

      But here comes the cynic in me, considering this:
      The current high voltage electoral season compounding in powerful and incessant information/disinformation rhetoric reporting serves as effective distraction from the really big stuff. I don’t believe either side designed the lighting plot for this…but, certainly each enjoys the changes in brightness and focus.

      I’m at the point I nearly care not who gets elected this time. I have moved beyond that with some hope whoever it becomes, that President’s administration will draw new maps of diplomatic affiliation, in order to offer Americans some honest sense of hope. Then, these people must do the same for domestic issue maps.

      We should start by either removing, or at least fading, many existing lines of presumed inevitability. I believe they must get honest with real speak immediately and with conclusive blue prints within two year.

      [What’s this red type all about?]

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2016 - 12:18 pm.

        The growing sense that the U.S. has become ineffectual has significantly created doubt and (perhaps) misplaced fear.

        Doubt and fear always have and always will be with us. For me, the above sentence raises a huge number of issues. Are you talking about domestic or foreign perceptions? The American economy has performed far better than European economies. In that area do they perceive us as ineffectual? If you are a terrorist in the middle and see a drone homing in, in that moment does he see America as ineffectual? Obviously the middle east is in turmoil and America is seen as ineffective in ending that, but is that really the result of a lack of trying? We waged have waged a series of wars there, and I think the common perception outside the United States, true or not, is that we have just made things worse.

        Domestically, America is perceived as ineffectual. Even I perceive it that way. We have a Congress committed to gridlock. It just recently rejected a Supreme Court nominee, not because of any personal qualities that person had but because of the party his appointer belonged to. Infrastructure is in decline. Healcare reform is paralyzed.. There is talk that one of the major parties will decide it’s presidential nominee through a process of rioting in the streets, a possibility I certainly don’t discount. I could go on.

        What is to be done? Heck if I know.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/19/2016 - 05:01 am.

          Ineffectual extension…

          I appreciate your nod to international conditions (I having deliberately made no connection for purpose of coherence).

          While most Americans (rather notoriously) do not understand the interconnections of global stuff, they do eventually emotionally absorb a sentiment, a disposition, a concern, even a fear of threat to themselves…as obtuse as it is.

          That non-defined yet insidious sense of threat clouds more immediate perception. And, in noting perceptions, you unearth the pathogen…the pathogen of perception not treated with sufficient detail of reality, clarified knowledge, if you will.

          We are in another cycle of feeling “The World is going to Hell” all around us. More than a few astute financial and economic observers would moderate that to mean serious concern not mitigated by conventional models or theory.
          That is where we are. [negative Central Bank rates??]

          Enough of that is likely getting through to the shop floors and office pools to cause sensible folk to pause in some degree of broader thought, I believe.

          You may have read my comments where I use “catharsis” as a preferred result, with lessening concern over specific mechanism to reach it.

          Somehow we must get a new, and better, grasp of most everything. While some typically see “decline,” I observe “conversion,” I suppose. Conversion to what? Were I younger, I would plot that out. As I’m not, I won’t.

          Be of the best possible cheer, I say.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/20/2016 - 01:06 pm.

      James Madison: 1751–1836

      Regarded as a small, quiet intellectual, Madison used the depth and breadth of his knowledge to create a new type of government.

      [His] 1834 message,”Advice to My Country,” was released. He had specifically requested that the note not be made public until after his passing. In part of his final political comment, he wrote:

      “The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.”
      ……………………………………………………………………………….
      http://www.biography.com/people/james-madison-9394965

  23. Submitted by John Eidel on 03/18/2016 - 10:38 am.

    The Biden Rule

    I have to admire Mitch McConnell’s message discipline on “The Biden Rule,” despite its patent absurdity. Lets cherry-pick an obscure Senate floor speech from twenty years ago with no concrete relevance to the present issue and call it a “rule.” Want to appoint a Justice? Whelp, ya caint. Biden talked about this in an unbinding way to the C-SPAN cameras 20 years ago, so its a rule that ya caint.

  24. Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/18/2016 - 12:48 pm.

    Nose and face

    So this seems to be a perfect example of cutting of ones nose to spite their face. The threat to not give any nominee a hearing might have been used to great effect had an exit strategy been baked in to the plan. Say something like the term “unacceptable” or “extreme” to describe their expectations of who Obama would nominate as a rationale for the senate not being willing to consider hearings. Then when Obama called their bluff with an obviously qualified and centrist such as Garland they could have had a way out and taken advantage of best possible result they could have hoped for.

    Now of course they are stuck and the options in front of them are all potentially much worse or more risky than Garland. Once the election is over there is no reason that Obama or HRC couldn’t pull Garland in favor of a much more Liberal selection. That or Drumpf gets to pick and we end up with Ivanka or some easily ridiculous nominee. Either way the Republicans end up in worse shape than they are right now.

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/20/2016 - 07:50 am.

    So this seems to be a perfect example of cutting of ones nose to spite their face.

    It’s the peril of adopting a reflexive oppositionist strategy. It’s a good think the president has never come out against jumping off cliffs because if he did, Republicans would be leaping to their death or serious injury across the nation.

    Moral equivalence is a convenient doctrine for the news media because it helps to relieve the constant pressure they get from the right to the effect that they are biased, but it is rarely found in nature. Stuff can be similar but it is never equivalent. I think the current dispute over the Supreme Court nomination is a reflection of that. When Justice Scalia passed, their immediate and reflexive position was to say they would oppose any nomination from President Obama. Applying the principle of Moral Equivalence, they also said that Democrats would do the same thing, mining a long ago quote from Vice President Biden from a database they keep for such situations. The proposition by the way, that Democrats today are in any sense bound by things Vice President Biden said more than 20 years ago, is a curious, a notion that only makes sense to a Republican mind. Even the word “Borking” was tossed around by the historically illiterate caucus within the GOP.

    But would we really?

    The politically correct strategy for Democrats (although not necessarily for Republicans) would have been to lay back and wait for events. Given the political situation, there was always the possibility that a Republican president would nominate a candidate that was acceptable to Democrats. And if he didn’t, we could hold hearings in which there would be the opportunity at least, to demonstrate to the nation the true nature of Republican legal extremism, while presenting the appearance or even the reality of a senate doing the job assigned to it under the constitution. Thinking back to the Bork hearings, who was it who benefited from them in the long term? Judge Bork was given a fair hearing. His most famous opponent, Joe Biden went on to have a successful political career culminating in the vice presidency. And an important guidelines were set down that ever since not even the most conservative GOP nominee can violate and still hope for nomination. Does the Republican choice to deny Judge Garland a hearing have any chance of being as beneficial as granting a hearing to Judge Bork was for us?

  26. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/20/2016 - 08:58 am.

    Convention Cattle

    While all focus seems to turn to respective Conventions as presidential baptismal fonts, we must all expand our view to remember far more “insider” stuff goes on behind cameras and off the floors.

    Conventions are the political stockyards, where many beasts are examined, graded and sent up various ramps or down chutes. This is where the delegates do have significant influence on many matters, including court nominees/strategies/realities and fantasies/whatever.

    I’m waiting to see if Judge Garland remains the offer then, to add more turmoil to the Republican process.
    Perhaps Garland might be withdrawn just before then, to create even more mayhem of uncertainty in those many back rooms off the convention floors. Perhaps not.

    Pres. Obama may have made a straightforward offer in Garland. If so, I rather doubt leaders of either party see that as other than some second-level strategy. None of them seem able to ever think beyond their own feedlots.

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