No Need to Hurry

Filibustering Judge Gorsuch’s nomination is the right thing to do.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has signaled that Democrats will block Judge Neil Gorsuch from rising to the Supreme Court with the filibuster.

I hope to God he’s serious.

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Jimmy Stewart as Sen. Smith, filibustering in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

This is no ordinary nomination; this is not time for business as usual.  To start, FBI director James Comey has testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee (after confidentially briefing members) to inform them and us that his agency is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether members of Trump’s campaign had any links to the Russian government.

That is, to paraphrase former Vice President Joe Biden, a BFD.

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FBI Dir. Comey 

Comey testified that, in going public with this information, he was breaking with agency practice, doing so because it’s in the public interest.  The FBI is looking into misconduct that rises to the level of treason from a presidential campaign.  Every day, more facts unfurl about Trump associates’ shadowy connections to Russia.  Why rush to confirm Gorsuch when questions implicating our very democracy are on the table?

 

Indeed, the Republicans shouldn’t have any problem with waiting.  Majority leader Mitch McConnell took the unprecedented step of refusing even to meet with D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland after President Obama nominated him to fill the seat vacated after Justice Scalia’s death. “Let the people decide,” he said.  Notwithstanding the fact that the people had spoken—twice electing President Obama.   Russian intermeddling in our election raises questions about whether the people’s voices truly were heard in November.

Of course, Mitchell and others will yell that the filibuster and any talk of delay are pure politics, which they (and even Gorsuch) claim have no place on the bench.

Really, guys?

When it appeared that Secretary Clinton was poised to move to the White House, Senators Cruz and McCain said they would block any judge she nominated for the Supreme Court.   Just as was true with respect to Judge Garland, the Republican party drew a line in the sand—irrespective of the nominee’s qualifications or experience, the fact that a Democrat nominated him or her was disqualifying.  How nonpartisan is that?

Let’s face it. The system is broken.  It’s been increasingly partisan for decades—even before fights surrounding Robert Bork (which the Republicans will cite as ground zero).

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Thurgood Marshall at his hearings/AP

Senators delayed the nomination of then-Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall for months.  He endured a grueling set of hearings in which he sparred with members about states’ rights to enact anti-miscegenation laws, the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV of the Constitution, and how Framer Elbridge Gerry understood the Constitution.  Unlike his future colleague Byron White, Marshall’s hearings lasted significantly more than the 90 minutes about which Judge Gorsuch waxed nostalgic.

 

So, where does that leave us?  The concern is that if  Democrats filibuster now, they merely escalate an already harmful ideological arms race. The Republicans will “go nuclear” and eliminate the filibuster, essentially guaranteeing that future nominees will be political hacks instead of the independent jurists we need to uphold the rule of law.

Another possibility is that, in slowing things down, Democrats take the lead in recalibrating the nominations process.  Perhaps they can bring along some moderate Republicans to urge nomination of a moderate, qualified candidate.

Like Merrick Garland.

 

Far from Normal

Let’s not pretend that the Supreme Court confirmation process isn’t broken.

Monday, February 13 marks the anniversary of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death; and we still have just eight justices on the Supreme Court. Republicans abdicated their constitutional duty by failing even to grant a hearing to D.C. Court of Appeals judge Merrick Garland.  But, with a new resident in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acts as if that unprecedented cold shoulder never happened. Since President Trump nominated Tenth Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch to the Court, McConnell has declared that “the American people simply will not tolerate” any Democratic effort to block a Supreme Court nominee.

Say what??

McConnell suggests that everything-is-everything/business as usual.  Only it’s not.  The Senate Judiciary Committee moving ahead on the merits of Judge Gorsuch’s nomination would be like Jennifer Garner inviting Ben Affleck to her family reunion.  The Republicans’ refusal to do their constitutionally enumerated job has damaged the confirmation process and harmed all three branches of government. Continue reading “Far from Normal”

Say “No” to Sen. Jeff Sessions

The Senate Judiciary Committee should reject Sen. Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General.

On Tuesday, January 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.   If the last few days show anything, it’s that Sessions is the wrong person for the job.

I’ve written previously about how, as the U.S. Attorney for Alabama, Sessions abused his authority to prosecute civil rights advocates seeking to register African American voters. This egregious action takes on even greater importance as President Trump is demanding a federal investigation  of unsubstantiated voter fraud and signed an executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries (significantly, excluding nations in which Trump is doing business) from entering the US.

Thus far, executive power in Trump’s hands is a tool for settling scores about who really won the election and stoking fear and discord.  To date the legislative branch has stood by mutely, rather than providing a much needed check.  And, as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions will make matters worse. Continue reading “Say “No” to Sen. Jeff Sessions”