Tag Archives: Senate GOP

Waiting for return of confirmation comity

There once was a time when U.S. Supreme Court nominees sailed blissfully through the confirmation process, with senators giving presidents all the latitude in the world to select the person of their choice. They asked some tough questions, occasionally, but were respectful and a bit deferential to presidential prerogative.

Not … any … longer.

President Biden is going to select a black woman to succeed Stephen Breyer on the court once Breyer retires at the end of the current court term. The president can expect a donnybrook. He might be able to find the most brilliant legal mind this side of the Magna Carta, but that person won’t be confirmed without shedding a good bit of blood as she takes incoming rounds from the Republican obstruction brigade in the Senate.

When did it come to this? I guess you could trace it to 1987, when President Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the SCOTUS. Bork was known to be a strict constitutional constructionist. He was a brilliant legal scholar, but he had some seriously offensive views about the role of women and racial minorities. His nomination went down in flames.

Then came the 1991 nomination of Clarence Thomas, whom President George H.W. Bush called the most brilliant legal mind in America. He sought to succeed the late Thurgood Marshall. Then came allegations of sexual harassment and the testimony of Anita Hill. The debate was ferocious. The Senate confirmed Thomas, but it was a narrow mostly partisan vote.

I am thinking at this moment of a nominee put forth by President Eisenhower in 1953. Earl Warren was governor of California when Ike asked him to join the court. He had never served as a judge. I wonder now how an Earl Warren nomination would fare in today’s climate. Would senators question his qualifications? Would they hold him to the same sort of careful examination that they appear ready to do to whomever Joe Biden presents? If the answer is yes, would Gov. Warren hold up?

For the record, I am glad Earl Warren served as chief justice, given that the court on his watch approved some amazing landmark rulings; e.g., Brown v. Board of Education.

I want President Biden’s first high court nominee to be judged carefully but fairly by senators. I am concerned they will respond with red herrings, specious arguments and phony concerns.

I remain committed, by the way, to presidential prerogative in these cases. Elections, as they say, do have consequences. I have been faithful to that truism with respect to whomever is in office.

So, let the process move forward. I hope for a semblance of judicial comity as the Senate ponders this most important selection.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Awaiting SCOTUS debate

I am waiting with bated breath — yes, already! — for Senate Republicans to voice their opposition to whomever President Biden chooses to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

You see, we now will get to hear the objections as to why they oppose what the president promises will be a legal scholar of impeccable credentials; she will be someone with outstanding character; she will have unassailable legal credentials.

That won’t be enough to swing GOP senators over the right side of history as Joe Biden proceeds to find the first African American woman nominated for a spot on the nation’s highest court. Oh, no!

They will concoct reasons to oppose her. They will take whatever she might have said about something out of context, twist it into something no one can recognize and then declare that there is “no way” they can support such a “radical, left-leaning” lawyer to the Supreme Court.

I actually welcome that debate. Why? Because I want to know who the individuals are who cannot set their political bias aside while considering such an important choice for a lifetime appointment.

Oh, and be sure to stay alert to the accusation that Democrats in Congress and the president are somehow playing “politics” with this choice. Wait for it. That ridiculous canard is bound to surface.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s call him ‘Mealy-mouth Mitch’

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mitch McConnell has more than just two sides of his mouth through which he utters nonsense that contradicts earlier statements.

The Senate Republican leader once hailed voting rights legislation as quintessentially American. He led a bipartisan effort in 2006 to approve an extension of the Voting Rights Act that passed the Senate in a 98-0 vote.

President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed it into law with McConnell standing there applauding along with the rest of the Senate … and the nation.

These days? It’s a different tune that McConnell is humming. The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill under consideration is a non-starter for Mitch and his GOP caucus. They don’t want to guarantee all Americans easy access to voting. McConnell is now the leading obstructionist who seeks to block this bill from becoming law.

He is fighting efforts to amend the filibuster rule that would “carve out” voting rights from the rule that enables a minority of senators to block legislation. Voting rights needs to pass with a simple majority, say proponents of the change. That includes President Biden.

McConnell, though, seemingly forgets his earlier position. His previous stance was the noble one. His current view is despicable.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s move on … but do not forget!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Our latest national nightmare is winding its way to a conclusion.

I’ll toss a single bouquet at Donald Trump’s legal team. It took next to no time to finish its job in defending their client in the U.S. Senate trial against charges that he incited an insurrection against the U.S. government.

I don’t believe Trump’s team made the case. But that’s just me. He did what the House of Representatives alleged he did in its impeachment article. The remaining task will be for the Senate to cast its vote.

I do not expect a conviction. Trump will walk away. The Constitution sets a high bar for conviction, two-thirds of the senators have to agree; they won’t get there.

What now? Well, it is time to move on. It is not time to forget. Nor is it time to shove aside what happened on the Sixth of January. What happened was an egregious attack on our system of government. It was an attack on our democratic process.

The terrorists who stormed Capitol Hill intended to stop Congress from fulfilling its constitutional duty of certifying the results of an election that Donald Trump lost. He still hasn’t accepted his defeat, that Joe Biden is now president.

The Senate very soon can get busy with other pressing matters. COVID relief needs approval. There needs to be attention paid to economic revival. President Biden can now step out of the shadows cast by the impeachment trial and insert his own efforts at fixing what ails the nation.

I am fine with that. I only wish we could anticipate a more just outcome from the Senate trial. We won’t get it.

Instead, we are going to witness a majority of Republican senators continue to lick the boots of a cult figure. There might be a few crossovers, just not enough of them.

If I was King of the World, I would suggest that the Republican Party needs to assess whether it believes that “character matters,” and that it hues to the tenets of inclusion that made it a great political party. The Party of Trump represents none of it.

But, hey, that’s politics, right?

Minds are made up?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s time for me to step out of my advocate shoes and take a brief — and dispassionate — look at what is playing out on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

I am hearing from a lot of my social media friends and acquaintances about how Republican senators have “made up their minds” to acquit Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection.

A cautionary word is in order. So have the Democratic senators … made up their minds.

A big part of me shares the disgust that Republican senators appear to be digging in on their insistence that Trump doesn’t deserve to be convicted of inciting the riot that damn near destroyed our democratic process.

I wish they would keep an open mind and wait until they hear all the evidence before throwing in with the ex-president.

Fairness, though, compels me to play the devil’s advocate. Democrats have done precisely the same thing they accuse their GOP colleagues of doing. They, too, have dug in. Only their instinct is to convict Trump, which is an instinct I happen to share.

Let us note as well that this isn’t a legal trial. It is a political trial. The Senate — aka the jury — isn’t bound by strict rules of law to be “fair and impartial.” They are politicians who are playing to their respective bases of support, be they progressive or conservative.

If only more of them shared my own view of how to decide this trial.

Conviction still unlikely

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The evidence of incitement of insurrection has been searing, heartbreaking, graphic and it reveals a profound danger to our republic.

Despite what I believe we have seen in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, I fear it won’t move a sufficient number of Republican U.S. senators to do what they should do … which is convict the ex-president of the crime for which the House of Representatives impeached him for the second time.

Trump will get an acquittal. He likely will crow about it. The good news from my standpoint, though, is that his legacy — and I use that term with great caution — will be scarred forever by the knowledge that most senators believe he violated the sacred oath of his office.

He stood before the crowd of terrorists on the Sixth of January and implored them to march on Capitol Hill. He told them to “stop the steal” of an election he lost fair and square to President Biden. They tried to do as they were instructed to do by their hero, the disgraced president.

It won’t move enough senators to convict Trump. Which means the Senate cannot vote to ban this monster from ever seeking federal public office.

That will be to the shame of all the Republicans — and I am talking specifically to Texas’s two senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both of whom indicate no interest in doing the right thing.

They will hide behind the phony argument about the trial’s alleged unconstitutionality. They will look indifferently at the evidence, at the sight and sounds of terrorists storming the Capitol building, ignoring how many of their colleagues came to being physically harmed … or worse.

The good news, as I see it, will be that Trump will be marked forever as someone who sought to destroy the very government he took an oath to defend and protect.

Managers set, let the trial commence

Here we go. The Donald Trump impeachment trial managers have been named. The House of Representatives has sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The managers at this moment are likely scurrying in an effort to come up with a prosecution strategy.

And the White House legal team no doubt is scurrying, too, to concoct a defense strategy to counter what I believe is a mountain of evidence to suggest that the president deserves to be removed from office.

But I am not among the 100 senators who’ll make that decision. Trump is likely to survive the trial, which is supposed to begin next Tuesday.

Man, it is going to be some kind of spectacle.

This is serious stuff, folks. It’s only the third time a president has been put on trial. Donald Trump now gets to join Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton among the roster of presidents who are forever identified as “impeached.” Presidents Johnson and Clinton both survived their trials. So will Trump, or so it appears at this moment.

If I could have had a hand in selecting the managers, my preference would have been to include the lone now-former Republican member of the House to vote to impeach Trump. Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian-leaning conservative who represents the same Michigan congressional district that once sent Gerald R. Ford to Congress, should have been included on that team of managers.

But, he’s not among the managers.

You may count me as one American who is anxious for this trial to conclude. The Senate’s Republican majority is dug in. They won’t convict Trump unless something so compelling comes forward in the next few weeks that they cannot stand by their man.

The way I see it, though, Trump already has done enough to merit his removal. He solicited a foreign government for political help and he has blocked Congress from doing its oversight duties. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Got it?

The trial will be done in fairly short order. Then we can get on with the task of removing this guy from the White House the old-fashioned way: at the ballot box in November.

Where’s the ‘intelligence’ at the briefing?

When a leading Republican supporter of Donald J. Trump comes out of an intelligence briefing and calls it the “worst” one he’s heard in his time as a U.S. senator, then it looks as though the president has some trouble on his hands.

Mike Lee of Utah came out of the briefing today to blast the briefers. He called the event “sophomoric,” and was highly critical of the national security team’s instruction to avoid any debate about what they learned behind closed doors.

Lee didn’t like what he heard. What’s more, he said so out loud.

The briefing came from some Trump administration heavyweights, including CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper; a third briefer was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who I should add has emerged as a high-profile disappointment as the nation’s top diplomat.

At issue was the justification for killing Iranian Revolutionary Guard chieftain Qassem Solemaini. The president said Iran was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests and that the air strike in Baghdad was meant as a “defensive” measure. He didn’t provide any evidence of such an “imminent” attack. Senators came out of today’s briefing saying the national security team didn’t provide anything new, either.

Iran responded with the missile attack against two U.S. bases in Iraq. The missiles didn’t inflict any casualties. Iran backed down. Trump said the United States would not pursue any further military action. “All is well,” the president said via Twitter. Well, it isn’t all well.

What is stunning to me was the anger expressed by Sen. Lee, who until now has stood foursquare behind the president. He said the briefers’ admonition was “insulting.”

This is the troubling aspect of the hit against Solemaini. The strike itself needed to happen. What also needed to occur was the development of a cogent after-action strategy by the Trump administration.

It appears that there is nothing of the sort available for public review.

Politics runs head first into justice

I wrote once on this blog about how politics is likely to drive a potential impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Well, the House of Representatives impeached the president on a virtual party-line vote and the Senate is now going to put him on trial.

The outcome will be decided, yep, on party lines.

Which brings up this point: Are senators free to vote their “conscience,” to base their decision solely on the evidence they have before them? Or must they worry what the folks back home think of what they are about to do?

I present to you U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.

Sen. Jones, who is running for re-election next year after narrowly defeating a Republican opponent, is facing the Mother of All Political Quandaries. Does he vote to convict Trump on obstruction of Congress or on abuse of power and face the wrath of Alabama voters, most of whom support the president? Or does he challenge them by declaring that he has voted to convict based on what he has seen and heard?

I believe Jones wants to keep his Senate seat. I also believe he is, as most pundits have posited, the most vulnerable Senate Democrat facing re-election this year. I don’t know much about Jones. I don’t know what makes him tick. I cannot measure his political courage. I don’t know if he’s a “maverick,” a loyal party guy or someone who wants to cover his own backside at any cost.

This is what I mean when I mention how politics runs head first into the quest for justice in matters of impeaching a president. Politics clearly is keeping Republicans from bucking their own partisan interest; it also is keeping most Democrats in line as well.

We have sticky wickets. Then we have matters such as this.

I believe Sen. Jones is going to lose some sleep over this one.

Where is the ‘impartiality’?

Oh, how I hate playing the “both sides are wrong” card. I feel I must do so in this instance.

Republican Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate’s majority leader, says he is not going to be an “impartial juror” when the Senate commences its trial over the articles impeachment filed against Donald J. Trump.

McConnell’s comments have drawn a rebuke from fellow Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said she is “disturbed” by his approach to putting the president on trial.

Now comes the view of a senior Democratic senator, Dick Durbin, who criticizes his fellow Democrats for refusing to maintain their own impartiality.

Both sides are guilty? I suppose so.

All 100 senators are going to raise their right hands and take an oath to be impartial jurors when Chief Justice John Roberts administers the pledge. They will say “so help me, God” at the end of the oath, which gives the pledge an air of sanctimony.

Will they be loyal to that sacred oath? Have they made up their minds to convict or acquit Trump? Is there a truly impartial mind among the 100 senators who will sit in judgment of Donald Trump? Or have every one of them pre-determined the president’s guilt or innocence, determining whether he has committed impeachable offenses?

Those of us on the outside have the liberty to make these determinations prior to hearing evidence. We’re not elected public officials. Those folks have the power to remove the president, or to keep him in office. They must maintain their impartiality for as long as they are hearing the case being presented.

I worry now that the trial that’s about to commence — hopefully sooner rather than too much later — will be akin to a sideshow with senators on both sides of the great divide guilty of the same sin.