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For the GOP, losing a fight over a SCOTUS nominee is unfamiliar

Most of the current Senate GOP conference was not yet elected when Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed. For them, yesterday’s defeat was ... different.


As a rule, all 100 senators are not generally on the chamber floor at the same time. When members deliver floor remarks, for example, they’re generally speaking to a handful of their colleagues. The norm is for senators to enter the chamber during a vote, signal their preference, and leave.

But for special occasions, senators will be asked to sit at their assigned desks and vote from their seats as part of a member-by-member roll call. Senate leaders decided the confirmation of the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court deserved full, formal proceedings.

It’s partly why there was sustained applause in the chamber after the vote on Jackson was complete: Senators who often aren’t in the room after a successful vote were there to celebrate. That said, as The New York Times noted, not everyone was clapping.

Not everyone shared in the joy of the day. As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.

Some of the senators didn’t bother to go to the floor at all. The Times’ report added that the process took longer than expected because Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was slow to show up. After finally arriving, Paul cast his “no” vote from the Senate cloakroom “because he was dressed too casually to meet the jacket-and-tie dress code for the chamber.”

By some accounts, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also gave a thumbs-down from the Senate cloakroom because he wasn’t wearing a necktie.

GOP senators treated Ketanji Brown Jackson with disrespect during the process, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see them treat her with disrespect again as the process came to an end.

But watching the proceedings, it occurred to me that for many Senate Republicans, yesterday was an unfamiliar feeling: The last time a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee was confirmed was nearly 12 years ago.

In fact, most of the current Senate GOP conference was not yet elected when Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed by a 63-member majority in August 2010.

It was about six years later when then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the high court, at which point the Senate Republican majority refused to consider his nomination and imposed the nation’s first-ever yearlong blockade.

Perhaps the lack of familiarity contributed to GOP senators behaving so poorly?