When the news broke that Senate Republicans might block (might being the operative word) any nomination by President Obama to replace the late Justice Scalia to the Supreme Court Democrats launched into full attack mode displaying the greatest sense of both outrage and hypocrisy seen in many years.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared that the GOP might be "Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold [which] would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself." Oh my!
Senate Minority Leader opined that failure of Senate Republicans to allow a hearing and a vote "would rank among the most rash and reckless actions in the history of the Senate. And the consequences will reverberate for decades." Reid went on to warn Republicans that "the consequences of blocking any nominee, regardless of merits, would hang over their heads for the rest of their careers."
Senate Democrats Routinely Blocked GOP Nominees
There is ample precedence for blocking nominees, even without a hearing, and it comes from Senate Democrats. Consider this excerpt from an editorial in the Washington Examiner:
No lameduck president for 60 years has successfully nominated a Supreme Court justice in his last year in office, as the Washington Examiner's Michael Barone recently pointed out. Lyndon Johnson was the most recent president blocked from doing so. He is in good company with John Quincy Adams, whose nominee the Senate voted to postpone until Andrew Jackson took office.Is it possible that Senator Reid forgot the role of Senate Democrats in blocking Bush nominees? Or what about Sen. Chuck Schumer(D-NY) who also now demands Obama's nominee get a hearing and a vote. In an interview over the weekend he insisted that "We Democrats didn’t do this" sort of thing when Bush was in office. Yet we have the tape:
In four other cases, Supreme Court nominations failed because the Senate took no action at all, not even a vote to postpone, until the next president was sworn in.
That the Democrats wouldn't hesitate to do exactly what the Republicans are doing now is plain enough. The GOP can argue truthfully that it has learned a few tricks from adversaries across the aisle.
George W. Bush still had seven years left to serve — yes, seven — when Senate Democrats began bottling up his perfectly qualified appointees to the federal appeals courts. When they held the majority in the Senate, Democrats blocked these even from getting a hearing, in hopes that they could defeat Bush in 2004 and fill the vacancies themselves.
Democrats lost their majority in 2002, and then launched a filibuster that was then unprecedented against some of the nominees. And they did so from racial motivations. Their internal communications, which were leaked, showed that Senate Democrats feared political damage from having the conservative Miguel Estrada elevated as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. So they blocked him.
Sen. Schumer made those remarks in July 2007. The Bush Administration still had 18 months left to go.
SCHUMER: [F]or the rest of this president’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this: We should reverse the presumption of confirmation...I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court nominee EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances.
Senator Obama Openly Blocked Qualified Nominees for Partisan Purposes
Let's not leave Obama out of this. As a Senator he said the following about the Senate confirmation of Justice Alito:
SEN. OBAMA: As we all know, there's been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process. There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have the complete authority to appoint his nominee, and the Senate should only examine whether or not the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around nice guy. That once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question whether the judge should be confirmed.After describing Alito's "great character" and his qualifications for office Obama went on to filibuster Alito's nomination. He is the only President in history to have blocked a Supreme Court nominee and now calls for a fair process.
I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of Samuel Alito, I'm deeply troubled.
I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. He's an intelligent man and an accomplished jurist. And there's no indication he's not a man of great character.
Ironically, Obama's major concern was that Alito believed a "President should not be constrained by either Congressional acts or the check of the Judiciary." You would have thought Obama would approve of that.
Also we remember that as a Senator Obama said this during the confirmation of Justice Roberts:
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge.But he voted against him anyway!
The idea that Democrats support a fair process when Republicans are in power is absurd. They will stop at nothing, even trash fully qualified nominees, filibuster or even refuse a vote. Now the tables are turned and they demand better treatment than they ever gave to Republicans.
With Democrats it's always about politics and so it must be for this nomination too. But what are Democrats afraid of? Do they worry that they won't be able to retake the U.S. Senate despite a clear advantage in the November election? Despite their boasting, are they worried that a damaged Hillary Clinton or a wildly out of the mainstream Bernie Sanders will lose the presidential election?
Republicans have the opportunity to make this November's election about more than just who sits in the White House or a particular Senate seat. The motivation for conservative voters to go to the polls with the Supreme Court hanging in the balance could swing all the other contests our way as well. Apparently, I have more confidence in the American voter and the democratic process than Democrats do. The question is, do GOP leaders in the Senate share my confidence?