Before President Obama even introduced Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans said they had little choice but to impose an impenetrable blockade. Their “principles,” GOP senators said, made any other course of action impossible.
First, for example, Republicans said their principles required them to honor the “tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years” about high-court vacancies that occur during a president’s eighth year. Soon after, Republicans sheepishly acknowledged that “tradition” doesn’t exist.
Republicans then said their principles about the Supreme Court have nothing do to with partisanship. Soon after, they quietly conceded that if a GOP president were in office, the blockade wouldn’t exist.
Republicans then said their opposition to Garland’s nomination has nothing to do with Garland specifically or his qualifications, but rather, the party’s principles about election-year confirmation votes. Soon after, the Republican National Committee released an oppo dump on Garland – a judge Republicans and conservatives have praised for years – which pointed in the opposite direction of their purported principles.
And finally, Republicans said their principles require them to keep this vacancy in place so that “the next president” can fill it, Garland’s merits notwithstanding. Except, many GOP senators have decided not to take this principle seriously, either.
Sen. Orrin Hatch on Thursday blasted the notion that the Senate would consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland before November – but suggested he would be open to confirming him if Hillary Clinton wins the general election and doesn’t announce her own choice. […]Hatch remarked that it is possible that Garland could undergo a confirmation process during the lame-duck session following the Nov. 8 election, but that is largely contingent upon who the next president would be.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I honestly can’t remember the last time Republicans went so far to shred their own talking points in public. According to Orrin Hatch, the GOP’s blockade against Garland has nothing to do with partisanship or even the judge’s nomination on the merits, but rather, this is solely about principle.
Unless, of course, Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, at which point the GOP will gladly throw their principles out the window. Hatch isn’t the only one, either.
We’re talking about elected senators who aren’t even trying to work in good faith. Some of these Republicans seem quite comfortable appearing nakedly partisan, abandoning any sense of propriety or responsibility, as if they simply don’t care whether or not they appear ridiculous.
In fairness, there are some exceptions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) conceded yesterday, “We can’t have it both ways.” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, agreed and said he intended to stick to the underlying principle.
But these positions are not guiding Republican tactics, at least not right now. The GOP game plan is as follows:
1. Impose an eight-month blockade on the Garland nomination, unlike anything ever seen in American history, including a prohibition on floor votes and confirmation hearings.
2. Wait for the election results in November.
3, If a Republican wins the presidency, do nothing.
4. If Hillary Clinton wins, revisit the blockade and consider confirming Garland during the lame-duck session between Election Day and the start of the new Congress in 2017.
The benefit to Republicans would be obvious: they’d confirm a 63-year-old moderate, rather than let Clinton nominate someone younger and more liberal. At that point, GOP senators appear craven and unprincipled, but by all appearances, Republicans just don’t care.
And while GOP senators may not be concerned about their reputations or their ability to take pride in their public service, they should be concerned with the details of the nominating process: if Clinton wins and Republicans decide to move forward on Garland, President Obama could always withdraw the nomination during the lame-duck session and empower his Democratic successor to start the process anew in the new year.
If Republicans aren’t prepared to take their own principles seriously, no one else will, either.