Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2016.
Photo by Susan Walsh/AP

Without a hint of irony, McConnell decries high court obstructionism

Updated
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Rachel on the show this week that he’s “absolutely” prepared to hold open the Supreme Court’s vacancy, agreeing that Republicans effectively “stole” a high-court seat with their partisan blockade last year.

The comments did not escape the attention of his Republican counterpart.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed a pledge from his Democratic counterpart to block President-elect Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, insisting “the American people simply will not tolerate” such a move. […]

“Apparently there’s yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all,” McConnell said, adding: “I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate, and we’ll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it.”
The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/3/17, 9:26 PM ET

Schumer: Dems will resist Trump on 'stolen' Supreme Court seat

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about the Senate Republicans’ radical refusal to allow President Obama to name a Supreme Court justice, and how Democrats plan to treat Donald Trump’s nominee.
Look, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in the subtleties of Americans’ attitudes on the federal judiciary, but if there’s one thing the 2016 elections made abundantly clear, it’s that most of the public couldn’t care less about Supreme Court obstructionism. Senate Republicans, for 11 months, refused to even consider a moderate, compromise nominee – and GOP senators had little trouble keeping their majority.

Ahead of Election Day, three Republican senators suggested they were prepared to block all Supreme Court nominees, regardless of merit, until 2021 at the earliest. Two of the three senators were on the ballot in November. Both won.

The American people “simply will not tolerate” senators refusing to confirm a high-court nominee? It’s a nice idea, and there may have been a point at which I even agreed with the assertion. But McConnell, who somehow managed to make this argument with a straight face, has already provided all the proof we need to know how very wrong he is.

If recent history is any guide, this debate will continue, with Republicans pointing to the arguments Democrats made when they were in power, and vice versa. It’s going to be tiresome: Dems will point to Republican obstructionism during Bill Clinton’s presidency, which will lead to Republicans point to Democratic obstructionism during George W. Bush’s presidency, which will lead Democrats to point to Republican obstructionism during Barack Obama’s presidency.

As regular readers know, when it comes to judicial nominees, there are no angels. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for someone – in either party – who’s been consistently principled on this, regardless of which party was in control at the time. I’ve never been able to find such an individual. There’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around.

But I also believe 2016 changed the game. There’s a qualitative difference between holding up assorted judicial nominees and imposing an 11-month blockade against a compromise Supreme Court nominee because Republicans hold President Obama in contempt.

For anyone to expect Democrats to tolerate such an unprecedented abuse, responding to GOP radicalism by acting responsibly and honoring traditional norms, simply isn’t realistic. Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to appreciate a simple truth: he and his party effectively broke the process last year, and the pieces have not been put back together.

If the Senate Majority Leader expects Democrats to pick up a broom and clean this mess up, he’s likely to be disappointed.


Chuck Schumer, Judicial Nominees, Mitch McConnell and Supreme Court

Without a hint of irony, McConnell decries high court obstructionism

Updated