Tag Archives: Antonin Scalia

Let’s call him ‘Slippery Mitch’

In the spirit of Donald J. Trump’s knack for attaching pejorative nicknames on certain politicians, I want to hang a label on the U.S. Senate majority leader.

Let’s call him “Slippery Mitch” McConnell.

Oh, my. The fellow is hard to pin down, no matter how direct the questioning becomes. Consider what happened this morning on “Fox News Sunday.”

The program moderator Chris Wallace sought to ask McConnell whether the Senate would consider a U.S. Supreme Court nomination in 2020 if one were to become available. Why did Wallace pose the question? Because McConnell blocked then-President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

McConnell said the president shouldn’t be allowed to pick a justice in an election year. He prevented Garland from getting a hearing before the Senate.

But, Wallace wondered … what about 2020, when we’ll have another presidential election?

McConnell wouldn’t answer Wallace’s direct question, which was whether he would proceed with a confirmation process if Donald Trump nominated someone in 2020. McConnell then tossed out the notion that he blocked Obama’s nomination of Garland on the fact that the Senate was led by a party that differed from the president.

Wallace picked up on McConnell’s change of motivation and wanted to know if that rule still applied, given that both the Senate and the presidency could be controlled by Republicans.

McConnell still refused to answer the question, casting it as a hypothetical.

Wallace grills McConnell

And … so it goes on and on.

None of this is a surprise. Politicians by their nature are prone to slip and slide away from direct questions … which I reckon explains why the media and others are so quick to praise those rare politicians who are willing to speak directly and candidly.

“Slippery Mitch” McConnell has shown just how elusive an experienced pol can become.

Self-awareness, Mr. Majority Leader?

I could barely contain myself. I wanted to toss a shoe at the TV set as I listened to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell condemn what he called “far left” resistance to whomever Donald J. Trump would appoint to the Supreme Court.

Why, he just cannot fathom how these groups could make such judgments without even knowing who the president plans to select.

Wow! Does the majority leader — who made his remarks in a Senate floor speech — not remember what he said immediately after Antonin Scalia died in early 2016, creating a vacancy on the high court?

Let me remind him. About an hour after Justice Scalia died, McConnell declared that no one whom President Obama would appoint would get a hearing and a confirmation vote. He declared the president’s pick dead and buried. Obama had nearly a year left in office when McConnell mounted his successful obstruction campaign.

So now he is accusing lefties of pre-judging any appointment that would come from Donald Trump.

Does anyone else see the irony of this idiocy? He is leveling an accusation against a political opponent that he could have leveled against himself when the previous president sought to fulfill his constitutional responsibility.

This is rich.

Will the SCOTUS pick adhere to the RBG Rule?

I’ve been hearing some chatter in recent days about the RBG Rule, named after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

President Clinton nominated Justice Ginsburg to the high court in 1993 and she promptly made one thing clear: She would not comment on any question that she believed could compromise the integrity of a decision she might make in a future court hearing.

Her intention was to avoid revealing how she might rule.

The RBG Rule has stood the test of time over the past 25 years.

Donald J. Trump is set to select someone to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of this month after 30 years on the Supreme Court.

Here’s my hope for the next pick: He or she should make the same pledge that RBG made in 1993. What’s more, liberal members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider the merits of this nomination, should honor that nominee’s pledge … if the nominee makes it.

There likely will be plenty of grist to pore through once the president reveals the identity of his nominee. I keep hearing that all the finalists the president is considering have considerable judicial experience and have developed lengthy and clearly defined paper trails that reveal much about their judicial philosophy.

Should whoever gets nominated be forced to answer how he or she would vote on, say, Roe v. Wade, or on the president’s travel ban, or on affirmative action, or campaign finance?

This nomination is likely to proceed to a relatively swift up/down vote on confirmation, despite the concerns of many that we ought to wait for the midterm election to determine the Senate composition. The Senate majority leader insisted on the completion of an election prior to considering someone to replace the late Antonin Scalia, right?

If the Senate is going to plow ahead with a confirmation process to determine who succeeds Justice Kennedy, then the RBG Rule needs to stand.

Do the people deserve to be heard this time?

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had this to say in February 2016 as it regarded President Barack Obama’s desire to nominate someone to replace the U.S. Supreme Court Justice  Antonin Scalia: The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.

Hmm. What do you think of that?

Here we are, in June 2018. The Supreme Court has just been opened up yet again. Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. Sen. McConnell said he intends to push for a Senate vote by this fall.

Hey! Wait a minute!

We have an election coming up. One-third of the Senate, which must confirm the next appointee, is on the ballot. It could swing from narrow Republican control to Democratic control after the November midterm election.

Don’t the “American people” have the right to be heard in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice? Don’t they, Mr. Leader?

That was his bogus rationale in blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination from President Obama in 2016. The president had a year left in his tenure. We had a presidential election coming up later that year. McConnell said “no way” on the nomination. He blocked it. He obstructed the president. He then — in a shameful display of a lack of self-awareness — accused Democrats of “playing politics” when they insisted that the Senate hold confirmation hearings and then vote on Garland’s nomination.

If anyone “played politics” with that nomination, it was Mitch McConnell!

Now, the leader wants to fast-track the latest Supreme Court nomination on the eve of an equally important election that could determine the ideological and partisan balance in the body that must confirm this nomination.

Does this election count as much as the 2016 presidential election? Aren’t U.S. senators members of a “co-equal branch of government”? Or is the majority leader going to play politics yet again by ramrodding this nomination through — before the people have the chance to have their voices heard?

Obstructionism pays off for Sen. McConnell

Who says obstructionism doesn’t pay dividends … bigly?

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in Texas in 2016. Within hours of his death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that President Obama would not be allowed to fill the seat left vacant by the conservative icon’s death.

Obama nominated U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland to the court. McConnell didn’t even allow Garland a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The nomination didn’t go anywhere.

Donald John Trump defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 election. Trump then selected Neil Gorsuch for the high court. The Senate confirmed him.

Today, the court upheld Trump’s travel ban. The vote was 5 to 4. Gorsuch voted with the majority.

Obstructionism doesn’t pay? Oh, you bet it does.

Yep, elections do have serious consequences

Oh, brother. Is there any more proof needed about the impact of presidential elections than the decision today handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court?

The high court ruled 5-4 today to uphold Donald J. Trump’s travel ban involving countries from a handful of mostly Muslim countries.

The conservative majority voted with the president; the liberal minority voted against him.

There you have it. Trump’s travel ban will stand. He will crow about it. He’ll proclaim that the court is a body comprising men of wisdom; bear in mind that the three women who sit on the court today voted against the travel ban. Had the decision gone the other way, he would declare the court to be “too political,” he would chastise the justices’ knowledge of the U.S. Constitution (if you can believe it).

The court decision today has reaffirmed the president’s decision to discriminate against people based on their religious faith. Nice.

The partisan vote on the court today also has brought a smile to another leading politician: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose obstructionism in the final year of the Barack Obama presidency denied Trump’s predecessor the right to fill a seat created by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Constitution gives the president the right to nominate judges; it also grants the Senate the right to “advise and consent” on those nominations. The Senate majority leader decided to obstruct the president’s ability to do his job.

President Obama nominated a solid moderate, Merrick Garland, to succeed Scalia. McConnell put the kibosh on it, declaring almost immediately after Scalia’s death that the president would not be able to fill the seat. McConnell would block it. And he did.

A new president was elected and it turned out to be Donald Trump, who then nominated Neil Gorsuch, who was approved narrowly by the Senate. Gorsuch proved to be the deciding vote in today’s ruling that upholds the Trump travel ban.

Do elections have consequences? You bet they do.

Frightening, yes? In my humble view — given the stakes involved at the Supreme Court — most assuredly.

Senate sees the end of collegiality

There once was a time when the U.S. Senate could be a place where senators disagreed but remained friends.

I believe those days are over. They perhaps have been gone for a lot longer than I realize. The confirmation battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch closes the deal.

Say goodbye to Senate collegiality.

Battle changes the dynamic

Gorsuch’s confirmation came on a fairly narrow vote. All Republicans voted to seat him on the U.S. Supreme Court; all but three Democrats voted against his confirmation.

Some of us — including yours truly — used to believe the federal judiciary somehow was insulated from partisan politics. Not true. Maybe it’s never been true.

Senate Republicans tossed the filibuster rule into the crapper to get Gorsuch confirmed. The Senate used to require 60 votes to quell a filibuster. Democrats launched a filibuster to block Gorsuch’s confirmation; Republicans answered by invoking the so-called “nuclear option” and changing the rule to allow only a simple majority to end a filibuster.

Democrats are angry that Donald J. Trump got elected president in the first place. Their anger metastasized with Trump’s appointment of Gorsuch after Republicans blocked Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Antonin Scalia.

I’m not at all confident that either side is going to find a way toward some common ground — on anything!

I recall a story that former Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Combest once told me about his former boss, the late U.S. Sen. John Tower; Combest served on Tower’s staff.

Tower, a Texas Republican, was a fierce partisan. One day, as Combest recalled it, he and another equally ferocious partisan debater, the late Democrat Hubert Humphrey, were arguing on the Senate floor about some legislation. They were gesturing and shouting and saying some angry things while arguing their points, Combest remembered.

After a lengthy floor debate, the presiding officer gaveled the session closed, Combest said, and Sens. Tower and Humphrey walked toward the middle of the floor, shook hands — and walked out the door with their arms around each other.

My gut tells me those moments are long gone.

Judiciary becomes another political arm

I guess it was naïve of many of us to believe the federal judiciary would be above the partisan politics that stymies the executive and legislative branches of government.

I always thought the founders created a judicial system that would be immune from politics. Those silly men.

Gorsuch gets key endorsements

Neil Gorsuch stands before the U.S. Senate awaiting confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp said today they would vote to confirm the judge nominated by Donald J. Trump to the nation’s highest court.

Senate Republicans need eight Democrats to join them to get to the magic number of 60 votes to confirm Gorsuch.

I have admitted this already, but Gorsuch is not my choice to become a high court justice. He is, though, the pick of the president, who has the constitutional authority to make these selections.

My hope would be that Democrats wouldn’t filibuster this nomination. They should save their ammo for when it really counts, such as when a liberal justice leaves the court. Gorsuch is a conservative who would replace the late Antonin Scalia, the iconic justice who died more than a year ago.

I also believe that this is a “stolen” seat that in reality belongs to Merrick Garland, who was selected by former President Barack Obama to succeed Scalia. Senate Republicans played pure politics by refusing to give Garland a hearing and a vote. That is to their everlasting shame.

That, I’m afraid to acknowledge, is how the game is played these days.

Judges have become political animals, just like the men and women who get to appoint and decide whether to confirm them to judicial posts. That’s too bad for the system.

Democrats sharpening their long knives

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats are making it plain: They don’t want Judge Neil Gorsuch to take a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oh, my.

What these folks do not seem to understand — or choose to ignore — is this simple point: Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation to the nation’s highest court will not tilt the court’s ideological balance one tiny bit from where it was when the late Antonin Scalia served on it.

Not one bit. Not one iota.

Scalia, who died a year ago, was a conservative jurist, and an iconic one at that. Gorsuch is a conservative jurist. Yet we hear Democrats, such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, declare his intention to all he can to block Gorsuch’s confirmation; that includes a “filibuster,” Blumenthal said.

Give me a break, man!

This fight is unwinnable. Gorsuch will need 60 votes in the Senate to be confirmed; if it appears he’ll fall short of the magic number, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, will change the rules to allow a simple majority to confirm Judge Gorsuch.

So, what’s the big deal? Gorsuch at worst will mirror Justice Scalia’s view of the U.S. Constitution.

Democrats need to sharpen their long knives — and then put them back in their scabbards and save them for when it really matters.

Such as when a liberal justice leaves the court. That’s when the court’s ideological balance becomes the defining issue.

Not this time.

‘Ideological balance’ not a SCOTUS issue

Reuters News Agency has declared in a headline that Neil Gorsuch’s selection to the U.S. Supreme Court means the court’s “ideological balance” is at stake.

Excuse me for a moment while I clear my throat.

Cough, cough …

Um, no. It isn’t.

Judge Gorsuch has been tapped by Donald J. Trump to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. As my dear old Dad would say, “It’s six to one, half-dozen to the other.”

Gorsuch is a conservative. So was Scalia. And yet, progressive thinkers are all a-flutter  because Gorsuch, they say, according to Reuters, “that he is a pro-business, social conservative insufficiently independent of the president.”

Do they think Scalia would have been any different had he not died before Trump took office? Do they think Gorsuch is going to somehow become so persuasive in his opinions and writings that he is going to bring some progressive court justices to his side of an argument?

Let’s get a grip here.

Scalia was an iconic figure among judicial conservatives. It’s not yet clear whether Gorsuch will attain that kind of status if he gets confirmed to the Supreme Court.

My advice to Senate Democrats and their progressive allies in the judicial community is this: Save your ammunition for the day one of the high court’s liberal justices takes a hike.

Although I agree fully that Trump never should have been given the chance to replace Scalia. That task should have been fulfilled by his presidential predecessor, Barack Obama, who nominated an equally qualified jurist, Merrick Garland, to take his place on the high court. Senate Republicans played bald-faced politics, declaring that Obama didn’t have the right to appoint someone to the court; that task, they argued, belonged to the next president.

That’s utter horse manure. The GOP’s tactic worked. Trump got elected and now he has appointed a judicial conservative to the court — just as he pledged he would do.

As one who stands foursquare behind presidential prerogative on issues such as this, I recognize that elections have consequences.

One “consequence” of the 2016 election is that Trump has chosen a “well-qualified” jurist — in the words of the American Bar Association — to become the next Supreme Court justice. There is no “ideological balance” to discuss with this selection.

What about the next one? And what if it involves the departure of a liberal justice?

Well, that’s a different matter altogether.