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Image: Josh Hawley
Senator Josh Hawley speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, on Oct. 13, 2020.Patrick Semansky / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Why Josh Hawley is the wrong guy to whine about overturning elections

Are Senate Republicans involved in some kind of clumsy competition, racing to see who can be the biggest hypocrite?


Republicans wasted no time condemning a Democratic proposal to expand the Supreme Court from 9 seats to 13, though they approached the issue in slightly different ways.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), for example, stressed the importance of "judicial independence," despite his and his party's recent hostility toward the idea of judicial independence. Around the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused proponents of the idea of being indifferent toward "norms," despite his lengthy campaign to undermine norms.

But leave it to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to kick things up a notch.

"It's a terrible idea," Hawley told the Senate press pool. "It is a deliberate attempt to fundamentally change a core institution of American government and effectively to overturn the results of past elections."

At face value, the idea that the legislation would "fundamentally change a core institution of American government" is largely true. In fact, it's sort of the point: in the wake of Republican abuses, proponents are making the case that the Supreme Court has been politicized to a dangerous and consequential degree. Expanding the bench, they argue, is about restoring the institution's balance and integrity.

It is a feature of the bill, not a bug.

But it was the other part of the Missouri Republican's quote that stood out for me.

To hear Hawley tell it, expanding the high court would effectively "overturn" previous election results. I'm not sure if I follow the logic, but the GOP senator appears to be suggesting that Americans elected Republicans like Donald Trump, who moved the Supreme Court dramatically to the right, and for Democrats to add new justices would have the effect of negating the former president's efforts.

Indeed, the senator was rather explicit on this point, adding yesterday that Democratic proponents of the bill are "openly and deliberately trying to undo the results of President Trump's election in 2016 in terms of his ability to appoint three justices." (If Trump had won the popular vote, there might even be a kernel of validity to the argument.)

But what makes the argument truly amazing is Hawley's own recent record. The headline in the Kansas City Star read, "Hawley, who voted to overturn election, claims court bill seeks to overturn elections."

Exactly. Three months ago, the Missouri Republican helped spearhead an attack on our democracy, and yet, there Hawley was yesterday, calling a judicial reform proposal "an attack on our democracy." The senator tried to overturn election results, and yet, there Hawley was yesterday, accusing others of trying to "overturn the results of past elections."

Are Senate Republicans involved in some kind of clumsy competition, racing to see who can be the biggest hypocrite?