Tag Archives: U.S. Senate

The death of democracy is in our demographics, and our antiquated Constitution

Ezra Klein at Vox.com made several important observations about our democracy in a recent post about President Trump’s nomination of an associate justice to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vs. democracy:

Such appointments are becoming the norm. With Justice Kennedy’s replacement, four out of the Supreme Court’s nine justices — all of whom have lifetime tenure — will have been nominated by presidents who won the White House, at least initially, despite losing the popular vote.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. America, for all its proud democratic rhetoric, is not actually a democracy. Until and unless the country chooses to abolish the Electoral College, it will remain not-quite-a-democracy, with all the strange outcomes that entails. Liberals may complain, but the rules are the rules, and both sides know what they are.

But the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc doesn’t just reflect the outcomes of America’s undemocratic electoral rules; it is writing and, in some cases, rewriting them, to favor the Republican Party — making it easier to suppress votes, simpler for corporations and billionaires to buy elections, and legal for incumbents to gerrymander districts to protect and enhance their majorities.

The Supreme Court has always been undemocratic. What it’s becoming is something more dangerous: anti-democratic.

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Senate Tea-Publicans abdicate their duty in favor of GOP tribalism

This is inexcusable and indefensible. Senate Tea-Publicans have abdicated their constitutional duty in favor of GOP tribalism to confirm Brian A. Benczkowski to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and oversee the government’s career prosecutors, including those investigating President Trump.

Benczkowski, who has never tried a case in court and who was hired by Alfa Bank — a Russian bank under scrutiny by the Special Counsel over reports of a communications link to the Trump campaign, Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia? — to prepare a report exonerating the bank, is not qualified for this position.

Benczkowski is now in the line of succession at DOJ, should Trump decide to engage in a “Saturday night massacre” at the Justice Department. He is a Trump loyalist who will play the role of Robert Bork in the Watergate scandal.

The New York Times reports, Justice Dept. Nominee Who Drew Scrutiny for Russian Bank Work Is Confirmed:

Democrats fought the nomination of the former staff member, Brian A. Benczkowski, raising questions about his qualifications. Mr. Benczkowski has never tried a case in court and was also scrutinized over private-sector work for one of Russia’s largest banks.

The 51-to-48 vote was along party lines, with only Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joining Republicans to confirm Mr. Benczkowski.

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Judge Kavanaugh provided misleading testimony in his previous confirmation hearing

Lost in the media memory hole is the fact that Brett Kavanaugh, then an adviser to President George W. Bush and one of his most controversial judicial appointees, had to go through the nomination process twice because of strenuous objection to his nomination, once in 2004 and again in 2006.

Roll Call recently reported, Democratic Senators Once Accused Potential Trump SCOTUS Pick of Offering Misleading Testimony:

Senators might find themselves debating whether the judge gave false testimony about detainee policy the last time he had a confirmation hearing.

That is in part because the two senators who suggested Kavanaugh may have misled them still serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh’s potential connection to the detention policies in the early 2000s stems from his work as a lawyer in the White House during the George W. Bush administration.

The question of what Kavanaugh knew about the interrogation programs was a topic of discussion during Senate consideration of his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the current minority whip and a long time member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Kavanaugh back in 2006 what he knew about the involvement of William J. Haynes II, who had been a Bush nominee for a Fourth Circuit seat, in developing detainee policies.

“Senator, I did not — I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants — and so I do not have the involvement with that,” Kavanaugh said back in May 2006.

Kavanaugh was confirmed. But the following year, news reports established that this answer was misleading at best, and lying to Congress at worst. NPR reported in 2007, Federal Judge Downplayed Role in Detainee Cases:

One of President Bush’s most controversial judicial appointees, Brett Kavanaugh, may have been less-than-forthright with Congress at a crucial hearing last year to confirm his appointment to a seat on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

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Trump’s rose goes to appellate court judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

“Dear Leader” in his reality TV show “Supreme Court Nominee” rose ceremony gave his rose to a white male Washington “swamp” insider,  District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a man who is on record having said the words that Donald Trump most wants to hear: in 2009 Kavanaugh said indicting a sitting president “would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national-security crisis,” and later wrote that “Congress should pass laws that would protect a president from civil and criminal lawsuits until they are out of office.”

In other words, Trump is putting his thumb on the scales of justice to protect himself from the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation, an obvious conflict of interest that undermines the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. Has Trump extracted a loyalty oath from Judge Kavanaugh?

No senator should enable this. Period.

The Los Angeles Times has a good backgrounder on Judge Kavanagh. Brett Kavanaugh, a Washington veteran, has inside track to a Supreme Court nomination:

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a Washington veteran with a reliably conservative record, has the inside track for the Supreme Court nomination to be announced Monday evening by President Trump.

The federal appeals court judge, 53, has lived and worked nearly his entire career in Washington, including in past Republican administrations, and he is well-known and respected by the conservative lawyers in the Federalist Society and in the White House counsel’s office.

But some activists on the right have rallied against him, citing his close ties to the Republican establishment and several court rulings that they believe did not go far enough in a conservative direction. [Will they fall silent now?]

Kavanaugh is a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, making him the only finalist for the nomination with an Ivy League education. Last year, Trump said he was drawn to his first appointee, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, because he had degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford.

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The Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins gambit – leave the GOP

Democrats have mounted a campaign against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee by targeting two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the mythical moderate from Maine, Susan Collins.

If our lives depends on Susan Collins, we’re fucked. Remember how she traded her vote on the GOP tax cut for corporations and plutocrats for her bills to secure subsidies for Obamacare health insurance plans in the federal budget? Yeah, she totally got played by Mitch McConnell — or did she? Was it all just a charade to maintain her mythical moderate persona? — her bills were not included in the federal budget.

And on Saturday, the Trump administration halted billions of dollars in annual payments required under the law to even out the cost to insurers whose customers need expensive medical services. Health Insurers Warn of Market Turmoil as Trump Suspends Billions in Payments.  Another epic failure by the mythical moderate from Maine. Thanks for nothing, lady.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos asks the pointed question, Once again we have to ask: is Susan Collins a liar, or just stupid?

Republican Sen. Susan Collins is steadfastly playing dumb about whether or not she’ll vote for a Supreme Court nominee from the current occupier of the Oval Office. She’s relying, apparently, on the misguided belief that her constituents are stupid.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear,” she told MSNBC Wednesday, “that if a nominee has demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade and has said that they are not going to abide by that long-standing precedent, that I could not support that nominee.” And what everybody is that Trump is working off of a pre-approved list on which every potential nominee has been screened for their adherence to extreme right-wing ideology, including hostility to abortion. Collins is continuing to try to pretend that if the nominee hasn’t said it out loud, they won’t do it.

Here’s the thing: no Supreme Court nominee has ever said out loud that they would not abide by any long-standing precedent, but especially Roe. Because they wouldn’t get confirmed that way. And the far right knows that. They rely upon the stealth of their nominees. Despite past performance, Collins isn’t so stupid that she doesn’t know that very well.

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VP Mike Pence’s self-debasement with an implied endorsement of crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio

A ”whiter shade of pale” Mike Pence was in Phoenix this week for the GOP tax scam tour. See earlier, VP Mike Pence in Phoenix today on GOP Tax Scam Tour.

But Vice President Pence did much more than that. He gave a big wet kiss to disgraced convicted felon, crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio, whom fellow Birther conspiracy theorist Donald Trump gave his first pardon as president in order to demonstrate just how far he was willing to go to obstruct justice and to protect his circle of sycophant supporters. Was Pence’s big wet kiss meant to be an implied endorsement of Joe Arpaio by “Dear Leader” in the GOP Senate primary? (“Chemtrails” Kelli Ward and Martha McSally had a sad).

The Washington Post reported, A champion of ‘the rule of law’: Pence praises pardoned Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Vice President Pence called former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court last year, a champion of “the rule of law” and said he was honored by his attendance at an event with him Tuesday in Arizona.

During remarks at an event in Tempe, Ariz., on tax cuts, Pence acknowledged Arpaio was in the room, suggesting he had not expected to see him.

“I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were also going to be joined by another favorite, a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law, who spent a lifetime in law enforcement,” Pence said.

“I’m honored to have you here,” the vice president added.

* * *

Arpaio’s conviction has done little to dampen the praise he continues to receive from the Republican establishment.

A recent Magellan Strategies poll found Arpaio running second in a three-person race with a 67 percent favorable rating among Republican primary voters.

Because haters gotta hate.

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