Asked about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson yesterday, Sen. Roy Blunt had plenty of complimentary things to say. The Missouri Republican, who’ll soon retire after a lengthy congressional career, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos yesterday that the jurist is “certainly qualified,” has a “great personality,” and had a “great conversation” with him.
The senator — a member of the GOP leadership — went on to say that President Joe Biden was right to say that it’s time for a Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Blunt paused to recognize the “importance of this moment” as Jackson moves toward a likely confirmation.
And then Blunt said he’ll vote against her anyway, blaming his decision of the nominee’s “judicial philosophy.”
The Missourian’s decision wasn’t altogether surprising — few saw Blunt’s vote as seriously in play — but it was emblematic of a process that appears increasingly broken.
Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told The Wall Street Journal that Jackson is “intellectually, academically, and experientially qualified” for the Supreme Court, but he added that political conditions dictate that senators consider a nominee’s ideology.
The North Dakotan added that the Senate may have entered an era “where the only way to confirm a Supreme Court nominee is the party of the president has to be in control of the Senate. And I’m pretty certain that the founders didn’t have that in mind.”
That’s true, though it’s apparently what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has in mind. The Hill reported over the weekend:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is putting public and private pressure on his Senate Republican colleagues to oppose President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, despite the historic nature of her nomination to be the first Black woman on the court.... McConnell made an impassioned plea at a recent Senate GOP lunch for his colleagues to oppose Biden’s choice, according to senators who attended the meeting. One Republican senator said McConnell leaned in hard on Jackson’s nomination.
Not long after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, and the president chose Jackson as Breyer’s successor, it was tempting to think Republicans would skip the usual partisan games. After all, this was a legal dynamic in which a center-left nominee would replace a center-left justice. She was all but certain to be confirmed anyway, whether the GOP minority approved or not.
Senate Republicans could look good voting for the first Black woman to serve on the high court, and in the process, the party could gain some shred of credibility in advance of the next time there’s a vacancy during a Democratic presidency.
But, no. That’s not the path McConnell & Co. had in mind.
Instead, Senate Republicans have come up with transparently foolish excuses to justify their partisan opposition to Jackson, after confirmation hearings in which GOP senators embarrassed themselves, earning widespread public disapproval.
The party won’t gain anything tangible by opposing a nominee whom Republicans concede is highly qualified, but nearly all GOP senators will vote no anyway — in part to satisfy the party’s base, and in part to make clear that as far as Republicans are concerned, Democratic presidents will not receive GOP votes for their Supreme Court nominees.
If/when Jackson is confirmed, there will be many who say the process worked: A president took his time, chose the right nominee, and that nominee gained bipartisan approval en route to the nation’s highest bench.
But that will mask the cracks in the underlying foundation. Pointing to the Republicans’ 2016 blockade, Democrats told NBC News last week that McConnell and his GOP leadership team effectively broke the process.
“The Merrick Garland debacle was the point of no return. Once McConnell stole that seat from Obama, I didn’t think there was any way to depoliticize this process,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said. “Something fundamentally broke in this place when Sen. McConnell chose not to give even a hearing to Merrick Garland.”
Murphy went on to echo Cramer, telling NBC News that the logical consequence of McConnell’s move is that a future Supreme Court pick may never be confirmed under a president and Senate run by different parties.
“I shouted this as loud as I could when McConnell made that decision. I said the consequence of McConnell’s decision will be an eventual constitutional crisis,” Murphy said. “And I think Republicans made it absolutely clear that if they have control, they will never confirm a Democrat’s choice for the Supreme Court.
“My fear is that we haven’t come close to the bottom,” he added.
For his part, McConnell still likes to pretend the problem began when Democrats, as the Kentuckian put it, “assassinated” Robert Bork in 1987. Such continues to be demonstrably ridiculous for those who care about reality.