Senate Republicans have had about a month to come up with a coherent rationale for imposing a blockade on any Supreme Court nominee from President Obama. The fact that they’ve failed so spectacularly to think of anything sound is probably a bad sign.
But the fact that they’re starting to debunk their own talking points is far worse.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, a wide variety of Republicans repeated this line about the merits of a partisan blockade: “This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don’t move forward.”
Today, another Republican senator – who actually supports his party’s strategy – acknowledged that his party’s argument was a lie. The Huffington Post noted:
One of the Republican Party’s most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.
Graham conceded, “We are setting a precedent here today,” even after weeks of GOP rhetoric about how they’re just following an existing precedent. The South Carolina Republican added that his party’s current gambit would establish a “new rule” – effectively admitting that such a rule is not currently in place.
The comments were held during a Judiciary Committee discussion about why the Judiciary Committee will refuse to have a discussion about the Supreme Court nomination that does not currently exist.
Graham’s unexpected concession made his party’s arguments look both indefensible and dishonest, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went even further in discrediting his own party’s claims. TPM reported:
During a Thursday morning radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) candidly explained that Senate Republicans would take a different approach to a Supreme Court nominee if a Republican president were in office and replacing a conservative justice.Johnson was asked on Wisconsin radio show “Morning Mess” about Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s forthcoming nomination to the Supreme Court. The host hypothesized that things would be different if Mitt Romney were in the White House.
The far-right Wisconsin senator, up for re-election this year, said it would be “different” if a Republican president were currently in office. As Johnson put it, “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing – if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”
He added, “But when you’re talking about a conservative justice now being replaced by a liberal president who would literally flip the court – you know, let’s face it, I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion – President Obama’s nominee would flip the court from a 5-4 conservative to a 5-4 liberal controlled court…. And so it’s an incredibly serious moment in terms of what’s the composition of the court going to be.”
In other words, as far as Johnson’s concerned, pleasant-sounding rhetoric about principles and Senate norms and traditions is all just window dressing. President Obama is a Democrat, and since Antonin Scalia was a conservative, Ron Johnson believes the constitutional process should be ignored for the most brazenly partisan reasons.
I’m honestly not sure if Senate Republicans are even trying anymore. They made up a “Schumer Rule,” which turned out not to make any sense. They made up a “Biden Rule,” which proved the opposite of the GOP’s intended point. They pointed to a “Thurmond Rule,” which kind of exists, but doesn’t apply here. Republicans made up an 80-year “tradition” out of whole cloth, which Lindsey Graham now concedes doesn’t exist.
They blamed the blockade on the “nuclear option,” which was ridiculously dishonest. They said this is payback for Robert Bork, which made even less sense.
And now a prominent Senate Republican is admitting publicly that the party’s professed principles are irrelevant and the party would be acting differently if the president weren’t a Democrat.
Why not simply drop the pretense and admit that the party is being craven?