Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley scammed the nation on 2020 Supreme Court confirmations
Mitch McConnell talks about replacing another Supreme Court Justice Louisville Courier Journal
Telling the truth and sticking by your word is for suckers, at least in our nation’s capital. GOP senators should not vote on new judicial nominees
In a stunning confirmation of his complete lack of integrity, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has given the green light to election-year consideration of a Supreme Court nominee, should a vacancy occur in 2020.
I say “stunning,” but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Telling the truth and sticking by one’s word is for suckers, at least in our nation’s capital. The Senate’s venerated rules of protocol and decorum can be discarded at will — unless they can be twisted to political advantage.
Some of you may recall that in 2016, McConnell and his accomplice, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, concocted the so-called Biden rule as an excuse to avoid considering President Barack Obama’s last nominee to the high court. Grassley, who was Senate Judiciary Committee chairman at the time, refused a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland in early 2016, leaving the seat open for a full year until after President Donald Trump took office and Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed.
A fabricated rule and a scheming party
McConnell and Grassley said then that hearings to fill a Supreme Court vacancy should not take place amid a presidential campaign. Grassley said that the president should refrain from nominating a justice during campaign season and that if he does, the Senate should refuse to consider the nomination
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“It’s because of the tremendous damage such a hyperpolitical environment would cause the court, nominee and the nation,” Grassley said in a floor speech in March 2016. “In short, if the Senate considered a Supreme Court nominee during a heated presidential election campaign, the court would become even more political than it already is.”
The joke was that Grassley cited then-Vice President Joe Biden, who voiced similar sentiments as a senator in 1992, as the source of this make-believe “rule.” Biden, of course, spoke at a time when no vacancy existed on the court, and he never acted to refuse a hearing to a duly nominated candidate for the Supreme Court.
The "Biden rule" was a scam. It never existed, except in the scheming minds of McConnell and Grassley. And yet both claimed that they would be consistent under a GOP president in 2020.
Grassley said in May 2018 on “Iowa Press” that he would follow the “Biden rule” for 2020 if there were a vacancy on the court.
“It would be the one year of the '20, if you want to follow the pattern of the Biden rule, and I'd follow that,” he said. “That would be just the 12 months or let's say the 10 months before the election of 2020.”
Grassley added that he didn’t expect Trump or McConnell to agree. However, Grassley added, it was “very legitimate that you can't have one rule for Democrat presidents and another rule for Republican presidents.”
Permanent change to the confirmation process
Perhaps McConnell never intended to apply the rule equally for a GOP president. The Senate majority leader is now making a new claim that the “Biden rule” applies only when the Senate and president are of different parties.
We are headed toward a day when no president can get any nominee, judicial or otherwise, through a Senate controlled by the opposite party. Maybe McConnell envisions a move toward a parliamentary government, where the party in power gets to pick the prime minister?
Grassley, meanwhile, is dodging responsibility for keeping his word. His staff points to a Roll Call piece in October saying Grassley would not hold an election-year hearing, but adds the proviso “if he still leads the committee in 2020.” One month later, it was officially announced that Grassley would move from chairman of Judiciary to Finance.
How convenient. Suddenly, it’s out of his hands whether the Senate follows actual rules, imaginary rules or no rules at all in determining who qualifies for a lifetime appointment to the bench.
But Grassley’s still a senior member of Judiciary. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is on the committee, too. Both of them should insist on no hearings for Supreme Court vacancies during 2020 until after the election. Both should withhold their votes from any presidential nominee to the Supreme Court.
But they won’t. Because the only rule the Senate Republicans are following is the rule of political expediency.