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As Court struggles, Grassley argues hearings are expensive

It's a rare argument about a Supreme Court vacancy: senators could do their job and meet the constitutional obligations, but it's too expensive to bother.
In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP)
In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Supreme Court has had a vacancy since February, and President Obama's compromise nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, has been pending since March. Nevertheless, by all appearances, the Senate Republicans' unprecedented blockade against any Obama nominee will continue through at least 2016 (and if Sen. John McCain is to be believed, perhaps longer).The practical effects of the GOP's radical strategy are plainly evident, with the Associated Press reporting on Friday, "The Supreme Court is offering new evidence that the short-handed court is having trouble getting its work done." It includes the justices finding themselves unable to schedule cases for argument that have already been granted review by the court.And yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn't even bothered to give Garland a hearing. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sat down with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register last week, and one of its members asked, "[W]hat would be the harm in simply holding a hearing on him and coming to your own conclusions as a committee?"The typical Republican response has been there's no point in holding a hearing for a nominee the GOP majority simply refuses to consider, but Grassley went in a different direction.

"Sure, sure. Umm, I suppose, the tradition is -- and I'm not sure I would follow this tradition because I know who I have on my staff, I know how deep you have to go into going through a person's record, in order to hold a hearing that's worthwhile. And so you appropriate -- you get special, not appropriations -- you get 'special' from the rules committee; additional money to hire additional legal people. My staff tells me that's about a half a million to $750,000 to hire people to maybe work for three or four months to do it."And so when 52 senators say they aren't going to take it up, should I spend that money and have a hearing?"

I think this is the first time I've heard such an argument: senators could do their job and meet the constitutional obligations, but the process is too expensive to bother.White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest apparently wasn't impressed, delivering this message to reporters from the podium on Friday:

"...I did take note yesterday that the chairman of this committee, Senator Grassley from Iowa, had a discussion with some members of the Des Moines Register Editorial Board about this process, and in the context of that discussion, Chairman Grassley indicated that taxpayers couldn't afford for him to hold those hearings. It would require hiring additional staff in order to do so."The American people have actually hired, already, senators to fulfill their basic responsibility. And that basic responsibility is to give a fair hearing to the President's nominee to the Supreme Court. So Senator Grassley is wrong when he says that the American people can't afford to hold those hearings. The truth is, the American people and the people of Iowa can't afford to be paying the salary of a Senator who's not doing his job. And Chairman Grassley has not been doing his job."

As for the road forward, some GOP senators, most notably Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), have said the chamber should consider Garland during a post-election lame-duck session, but Grassley said last week such an outcome is unlikely.