President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk out of the Oval Office with U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Merrick B. Garland, Obamas nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the Rose Garden at the White House March 16, 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

GOP acts as if it’s completely forgotten Merrick Garland’s nomination

Some rhetorical hyperbole is inevitable in politics, especially during an election season, especially in the midst of a fight over a controversial Supreme Court nominee. But this is awfully difficult to take seriously.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says the furor surrounding sexual harassment claims against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is a “total collapse of the traditional confirmation process.” […]

Graham, who is a member of the Judiciary committee, tweeted Monday that there are “no boundaries” when it comes to stopping President Donald Trump.

Soon after, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered remarks on the chamber’s floor, arguing, “The Democrats had already made up their minds and chosen their tactics: delay, obstruct, and resist. Whatever it took – whatever the truth really was – they were going to do whatever they could to stop this qualified, experienced, and mainstream nominee.”

A day earlier, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, expressed his dismay that Democratic presidents’ Supreme Court nominees “get an easy time,” while Republican presidents’ nominees “get mauled.”

It’s hardly a secret that memories are short in D.C., but a few too many Republicans are acting as if they literally don’t remember what transpired in 2016. If Lindsey Graham and others are concerned about the “total collapse of the traditional confirmation process,” now seems like an excellent time for GOP officials to own up to their role in creating that outcome.

In early 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested then-President Barack Obama nominate Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. The Democratic president took the advice and sent Garland – to borrow McConnell’s phrasing, a “qualified, experienced, and mainstream nominee” – to the Senate for consideration.

Hatch, Graham, McConnel, and their Republican brethren refused to give the compromise nominee so much as a hearing. GOP senators not only held open the Supreme Court vacancy for a year, several Republicans said that if voters elected another Democratic president, they were prepared to leave that vacancy open until 2021, at the earliest.

There were “no boundaries” to the GOP’s tactics.

One might fairly characterize this as the “total collapse of the traditional confirmation process.” A neutral observer might add that Republicans, two years ago, had “already made up their minds and chosen their tactics: delay, obstruct, and resist.”

Yes, two years later, Democrats are raising concerns about Brett Kavanaugh – the nominee of a president who, unlike his predecessor, lost the popular vote. But they’re operating very much within the boundaries of the “traditional” process. Even here, it’s Republicans who are shielding much of the nominee’s record from scrutiny and rejecting requests for a complete FBI background check.

I’m not in a position to say whether the GOP’s blind spot on Merrick Garland is real or the result of politically convenient cynicism. But the only way to take the Republican arguments seriously is to pretend 2016 never happened.

Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and Supreme Court

GOP acts as if it's completely forgotten Merrick Garland's nomination