A White House invitation for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to discuss the current U.S. Supreme Current vacancy with President Barack Obama has so far gone unanswered. Turning down the meeting would represent a break in protocol from two previous high court vacancies during Obama's presidency, when the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders attended Oval Office meetings.
As I was making the news rounds this morning, I noticed a tweet from Vox's Ezra Klein that said, simply, "The Republican Party is broken." The five-word headline gave me pause -- not because it was wrong, but because it occurred to me Ezra could have been referring to a variety of concurrent problems.
As it turns out, Ezra's piece was about Donald Trump's relative dominance thus far in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but I'll confess that when I first saw "The Republican Party is broken," one of my first thoughts went to developments in the GOP-led Senate.
Consider this Des Moines Register report published overnight.
Remember, it was just last week when Rachel sat down with Vice President Biden, and they talked about the process of confirming Supreme Court justices. He reflected on an anecdote from 1987 in which President Ronald Reagan, following the failure of two Supreme Court nominees, met with then-Sen. Biden in the Oval Office, asking, "OK, Joe, who do you want?" The Republican president pulled out a list of potential names and they had a conversation about the prospective justices.
When Rachel asked if we should expect something similar now, the vice president quickly responded that President Obama would absolutely "reach out" to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), among others, as part of a traditional advise-and-consent process.
But that only works if senators are willing to have a conversation.
"Early this week, we extended an invitation to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy to join President Obama in the Oval Office for a consultative meeting of filling the Supreme Court vacancy," a senior White House official told the Des Moines Register. "We have not heard back from Chairman Grassley."
I suspect for the Iowa Republican, the calculus is pretty straightforward: Grassley has no intention of ever doing his duty, so there's no real point in going to the Oval Office to discuss whether or not Grassley is going to take his responsibilities seriously. He's already decided not to.
But let's recognize this for what it is: a scandal. For the first time in American history, a Senate majority party not only intends to leave a Supreme Court vacancy in place for a year, Republicans are also imposing a blockade on the constitutional process itself. As of yesterday, Grassley won't talk to the president about potential justices, and at least five GOP senators -- including the Senate Republican leadership -- said they won't even talk to the president's nominee if he or she showed up at their offices for a visit.
Nothing like this has ever happened in the American experience. That's not hyperbole; it's a demonstrable fact. As Republican politics reach new levels of radicalization, the intensity of their maximalist tactics has arrived at an unprecedented and scary point.
The Republican Party may very well be broken, but just as alarming is the fact that the GOP is tearing the Senate down with it.