Senate Republicans trample gleefully on the principles they claimed back in 2016

Senate Republicans trample gleefully on the principles they claimed back in 2016
President Donald J. Trump listens as Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., addresses remarks during the federal judicial confirmation milestone event Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Julianna Luz)

Four years ago, if you asked Senate Republicans, it was a matter of holy principle that a Supreme Court vacancy arising in an election year—even in February—remain open until The People Could Speak and the seat could be filled by the next president. The sanctity of the Senate, the Supreme Court, and democracy itself were on the line, to hear them talk.


Now, not so much. With 43 days until the elections, and former Vice President Joe Biden favored to defeat Donald Trump, Trump is planning to nominate a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg within days and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to push the vote through. And the vast majority of Senate Republicans are enthusiastically going along.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have come out against filling the seat until after the elections, and, if Biden wins, until after the inauguration. But Collins has a well-established track record of taking “brave” stands like that when McConnell gives her permission to do so because he has the needed votes locked down, so until two more Republicans announce that this is also their position, don’t take it as significant.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2016, would have to go back on an even more recent statement than he made at that time. This July, he said, “If I were chairman of the committee and this vacancy occurred, I would not have a hearing on it because that’s what I promised the people in 2016.”

Between July and September, will Grassley discover that what he promised the people in 2016 didn’t matter so much? Or will he decide that while he wouldn’t have held a hearing, that doesn’t preclude voting for a nominee once Sen. Lindsey Graham, the current Judiciary Committee chair, goes ahead and holds a hearing?

Graham, of course, is the leading hypocrite after McConnell. “I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said in 2016. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey O. Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” Here in 2020, things can’t move fast enough for the eager bootlicker.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, facing a tough reelection, is clearly terrified to say anything. “I hope that before the politics begins—because there will be plenty of time for that—that we have some time for this country to reflect on the legacy of a great woman who rose to our nation’s highest court and the work that she has done for this nation, whether you agree or not,” Gardner said. In translation: “Please oh please don’t make me stake out a position on voting for a replacement.”

There is basically no Republican beyond, under very limited circumstances, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, who will ever do anything for any reason other than partisan expediency. Though I will gladly be proved wrong on that. Please, someone, show me how very wrong I am!

Meanwhile, Trump is perceived as shifting his favor from Amy Coney Barrett, his previous leading choice of lady candidate, to Barbara Lagoa. Because, see, Lagoa is a Cuban American from Florida, so Trump thinks nominating her will help him in Florida and with Latino voters, and he views this as not just a partisan but an actively election-related decision. And yes, Senate Republicans are going to be on board with that, too.

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