When Senate Republicans were in the minority, they had a habit of boycotting committee hearings in the hopes of blocking, or at least delaying, Democratic priorities. GOP senators relied on the tactic in 2009
, then again two years later
, then again two years after that
.This year, Democrats are borrowing a page from the Republican playbook. Some GOP senators aren't handling it well
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) appeared furious after Democrats refused to show up to the meeting he scheduled on Steven Mnuchin and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump's selections to lead the Treasury and Health and Human Services departments, respectively."I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots," grumbled Hatch, the Senate's president pro tempore and normally one of the chamber's most decorous members. "I'm very disappointed in this kind of crap," he said. "Some of this is because they just don't like the president."
The Utah Republican later added
, in reference to Democrats, "They are idiots. [Their tactics are] just complete breach of decorum."And one way you can tell Orrin Hatch cares a great deal about "decorum" is his use of words like "idiots" and "crap" when describing developments in the World's Most Deliberative Body.What's more, all of this is the result of Hatch's desperation to advance two Donald Trump cabinet nominees who, by any fair measure, are at the center of multiple unresolved controversies, including proving false information to the committee Hatch leads.Salon
's Simon Maloy made a compelling case
yesterday that the longtime GOP senator "can no longer appeal to the norms he worked so hard to obliterate when he objects to the tactics of his opponents." Simon's referring, of course, to Hatch leading the way to block Judge Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination.
To get around the (correct) accusation that they were mounting an unprecedented blockade of a Supreme Court nomination, Hatch and his colleagues cited a precedent that didn’t actually exist. They invented a “tradition” of presidents’ allowing their (undetermined) successors to make Supreme Court nominations. Hatch perplexingly insisted that Supreme Court nominations had to be “fair to both sides” and that such “fairness” could not be achieved in an election year. [...]At one point, Hatch wrote that he felt justified in blocking Garland’s nomination because protesters had disrupted his lunch meeting. To cap it all off, Hatch even admitted that he would have been willing to consider Garland’s nomination during the lame-duck session, assuming a Democratic victory in the presidential election. This completely undermined every citation of principle and precedent he had made up to that point to justify his obstruction.What Hatch and his colleagues did went far beyond some dilatory posturing by finance committee Democrats, and they had no justification for doing it beyond the cynical pursuit of power at all costs.
Or put another way, when Hatch whined yesterday, referring to Democrats delaying committee action by one day, "This is the most pathetic thing I've seen in my whole time in the United States Senate," the Utahan seems to be overlooking his own unfortunate conduct.I remember
a very different Orrin Hatch from earlier in his career. He used to brag about being a “square peg
” -- a label he embraced as a shorthand to say he'd occasionally break with partisan orthodoxy -- and for parts of his long tenure, it was true. The Utah Republican used to
actually see value in cooperating with people with whom he disagreed, working with Democrats, for example, on stem-cell research, the DREAM Act, and S-CHIP.But as Republican politics became radicalized, Hatch shifted with his party, and became surprisingly belligerent. Before he was complaining about his Democratic colleagues being "idiots," the senator was comfortable calling them "dumbass liberals
."There was a time Hatch saw himself as a statesman in his party. It's a genuine shame he threw that persona away.