It was probably the most consequential “gaffe” of 2014. Iowa’s Bruce Braley, a Democratic Senate hopeful running for an open seat, took a very specific shot at the state’s longtime senator, Republican Chuck Grassley. If the GOP took the Senate majority, Braley said in March 2014, you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.”
Braley later apologized, but the media pounced and wouldn’t let go. The Democrat’s lead evaporated, and he lost the election by nearly 10 points.
His point, however, was that Grassley probably isn’t qualified to be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel that, among other things, is responsible for considering Supreme Court nominees – and two years later, it’s starting to look like Braley was onto something.
Grassley’s first year as chairman of the panel was hardly smooth. The Iowa Republican rejected calls for restoring the Voting Rights Act by saying, “If you want to fix more minorities voting, more minorities are already voting.” His handling of Loretta Lynch’s Attorney General nomination was unfortunate. At one point, Grassley boasted that his panel had cleared the way for confirmation of 11 judicial nominees – and he was off by 11.
But the GOP senator’s support for an unprecedented blockade against any Supreme Court nominee, sight unseen, has cast Grassley in an even less flattering light. The Iowa Republican, unable to defend his ridiculous antics, has become so embarrassed that last week he “raised a binder to cover his face before hurriedly retreating” from reporters on Capitol Hill with questions about his behavior.
Yesterday, it sounded like the pressure was getting to him.
A day after a meeting at the White House with President Obama that he characterized as “cordial,” Sen. Charles Grassley had a fiery exchange with some reporters on his stand on the US Senate taking up Obama’s expected Supreme Court nomination.
It’s worse than it sounds.
Take a listen to the audio clip posted here. The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich asked Grassley about his approach, which the senator defended by pointing to the 2014 midterm elections, as if the results somehow invalidated the constitutional process and the authority of President Obama’s office.
Around the 2:15 mark, however, Grassley starts coming unglued, raising his voice and shouting bizarre arguments about the EPA, court “packing” (the poor guy still doesn’t know what that means), and his general contempt for the president.
The recorded tantrum raised questions anew about what in the world Grassley is doing as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
There’s no reason to believe the pressure is going to ease in the coming weeks and months, especially if the president nominates an Iowan who used to enjoy Grassley’s enthusiastic praise.
Making matters even worse is the review of Grassley’s record on the issue of judicial nominees. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted yesterday, for example, that as recently as 2006, Grassley declared on the Senate floor, “A Supreme Court nomination is not a forum to fight any election. It is the time to perform one of our most important constitutional duties and decide whether a nominee is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court.”
He did not add at the time, “Unless I really hate the president in office at the time.”
As recently as 2009, Grassley signed onto a letter to President Obama saying he should re-nominate President Bush’s leftover judicial nominees from 2008, just a gesture of goodwill. Seven years later, this same senator refuses to even consider a qualified Supreme Court nominee?
I’m sure Chuck Grassley wants the public to take his partisan antics seriously. I’m not at all sure why anyone would do so.