The authoritarian GOP war on the courts and the Constitution

“Constitutional conservative” is an oxymoron.

Movement conservatives do not believe in the Constitution, despite their feeble attempt to lay claim to the Constitution. They do not believe in democracy, and they hold nothing but contempt for the electorate who, for some unexplainable reason, elected them to office.

I’ve warned you before that Authoritarian Movement Conservatism threatens democracy: Movement Conservatives do not believe in American democracy. They want to blow up the government and remake America according to their own radical ideology.

Cartoon_47This has become crystal clear in the GOP response to the death of conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia. A little more than hour after Scalia’s death was announced, the Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, threw down the gauntlet: No Scalia replacement under Obama, to hell with Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution!

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said.

Note to the Turtle Man: The American people did have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice. They entrusted that choice to President Barack Obama in a landslide election win in 2012.

The same goes for Arizona’s bitter old man, John McCain. McCain Says He’s Ready To Block an Obama Appointee to Supreme Court.

Many Republicans in Congress and in the 2016 presidential field unified behind McConnell, arguing that the timing of Scalia’s death — it would be the first confirmation vote since Anthony Kennedy to be held this close to an election — made it necessary to leave the appointment to the next elected president. Despite McConnell’s claim, no Senate leader has ever asserted a right — and there is no precedent for a sitting president to hand over his power of high-court appointment at the request of any member of the legislative branch.

“The reason for McConnell’s hard line isn’t tough to figure out. It’s the same reason everyone from Ted Cruz to Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential race called for the postponement of any nomination until a new president is elected in November: It’s what the GOP base wants” — those wild-eyed radical extremists foaming at the mouth from Obama Derangement Syndrome over “ObamaCare,” and gay marriage, and immigration executive orders, fueled by the narcotic  drug of the conservative media entertainment complex.  Why Senate Republicans made a big mistake on the Scalia Supreme Court opening.

The GOP position was exactly the opposite when a Republican was in the White House, because for authoritarian movement conservatives it is all about the naked exercise of authoritarian power. What Republicans Said About Supreme Court Nominations During George W. Bush’s Last Year:

When Republicans argue that Barack Obama should not nominate a Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia, they are embracing a modified version of the “Thurmond Rule,” a concept invented by one of the Senate’s most notorious racists.

The first thing to know about the Thurmond Rule is that it is not a rule but a pronouncement by late Senator Strom Thurmond that judicial nominees should not be confirmed in the six months leading up to an election. Thurmond used his “rule” to justify blocking the nomination of Abe Fortas, who was already on the court, to Chief Justice.

Thurmond, an ardent segregationalist, was upset that Fortas and Johnson supported civil rights for African Americans. The Republicans are now seeking to extend Thurmond’s “rule” in 2015.

Since it is more than six months before the next election, even if the Thurmond rule was a rule, it wouldn’t apply in the case of the vacancy created by Scalia’s passing. What Republicans like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley are arguing for is the expansion of the concept to encompass the entire final year of Obama’s presidency.

These same leaders, however, had a much different perspective in July 2008, the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency, when they convened a meeting entitled “Protecting American Justice: Ensuring Confirmation of Qualified Judicial Nominees.” The hearing focused on the circuit court nominees at issue at the time, but featured lots of commentary on the Thurmond Rule.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

“[The idea that July 2008 would trigger the] Thurmond Rule ­­– that’s just plain bunk.  The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.”

Today, Grassley says that “The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year… it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”

Note: the lazy media villagers have stenographically reported Sen. Grassley’s “standard practice over the last nearly 80 years” line without bothering to fact check him. There is no basis in fact for his assertion, it is total B.S.

From 1796 to 1988—at least 14 Justices have been confirmed during election years. See also Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog, Supreme Court vacancies in presidential election years and the New York Times, Supreme Court Nominees Considered in Election Years Are Usually Confirmed: “Since 1900, the Senate has voted on eight Supreme Court nominees during an election year. Six were confirmed (the exception was in 1968, with Abe Fortas and Homer Thornberry, whom President Johnson nominated to succeed Fortas as an Associate Justice; he withdrew). The Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a successor from the time of nomination; on average, a nominee has been confirmed, rejected or withdrawn within 25 days.”]

* * *

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

“I think it’s clear that there is no Thurmond Rule.  And I think the facts demonstrate that.”

Today, McConnell is leading the charge for an expanded Thurmond Rule.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) takes the Turtle Man to task in an op-ed at the Washington Post. Reid to GOP: For the good of the country, stop your nakedly partisan obstruction:

We are entering uncharted waters in the history of the U.S. system of checks and balances, with potentially momentous consequences. Having gridlocked the Senate for years, Republicans now want to gridlock the Supreme Court with a campaign of partisan sabotage aimed at denying the president’s constitutional duty to pick nominees.

Republicans should not insult the American people’s intelligence by pretending there is historical precedent for what they are about to do. There is not.

The Senate has confirmed Supreme Court nominees both in election years and in the last year of a presidency — as recently as 1988, a presidential election year when a Democratic Senate confirmed President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the final year of his administration. My colleague and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), was a member of the Judiciary Committee then and voted to confirm Kennedy. More recently, Sen. Grassley stated, “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” That is true. For his part, my counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on Saturday called for the American people to have a “voice” in this process. Their voice was heard loud and clear when they elected and reelected President Obama, twice handing him the constitutional power to nominate Supreme Court justices.

That is how our system works and has worked for more than 200 years. Until now, even through all the partisan battles of recent decades, the Senate’s constitutional duty to give a fair and timely hearing and a floor vote to the president’s Supreme Court nominees has remained inviolable. This Republican Senate would be the first in history to abdicate that vital duty.

This constitutional duty has transcended partisan battles because it is essential to the basic functioning of our co-equal branches of government. By ignoring its constitutional mandate, the Senate would sabotage the highest court in the United States and aim a procedural missile at the foundation of our system of checks and balances.

The good news is that there is still time for heated rhetoric to yield to reasoned action. The Senate can get there if Republicans take a deep breath, put partisan politics aside and think this through, as Americans first and foremost. It is easy to get caught up in the partisan swirl of an election year, but I would urge my Republican colleagues to remember that the consequences of blocking any nominee, regardless of merits, would hang over their heads for the rest of their careers.

The rash statement that Sen. McConnell issued a few hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was announced framed the precedent at stake in the broadest possible terms, arguing that, starting now, any president should be denied the right to fill a vacancy in a presidential election year. Not only is that principle absurd on its face, but if we set that precedent now, there is nothing to stop future Senates from sliding further down that slippery slope. It is a small and easily envisioned step to go from “no Supreme Court confirmations in this specific election year” to “no confirmations in any election year.” Our founders who envisioned a fair, bipartisan process must be rolling in their graves.

If we enshrine this precedent and declare a functioning Supreme Court optional, subordinate to the whim of the Senate majority, it is easy to envision a future where the Supreme Court is routinely crippled.

If my Republican colleagues proceed down this reckless path, they should know that this act alone will define their time in the majority. Thinking otherwise is fantasy. If Republicans proceed, they will ensure that this Republican majority is remembered as the most nakedly partisan, obstructionist and irresponsible majority in history. All other impressions will be instantly and irretrievably swept away.

My Republican Senate colleagues should know, too, that they will be unconditionally surrendering their party to hard-line presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Donald Trump. Behind closed doors, many of my colleagues complain about the direction their party has taken in recent years. But if they cross this Rubicon, they will be as culpable as Sen. Cruz or Trump themselves, having resigned any claim to leadership and enlisting as foot soldiers in a radical effort to obstruct and delegitimize the president at all costs.

I understand that this is a strategy born of necessity, not strength. My Republican colleagues fear the right wing of their party. But I would ask my colleagues: Are the cheering of Trump’s crowds or the adulation of Sen. Cruz’s acolytes worth sacrificing your basic constitutional duty? Are these the forces you went into public service to serve?

If there were ever a time to take a stand for moderation and common sense, this is it.

I have participated in my fair share of fights over the judiciary. But throughout them all, we always guaranteed Supreme Court nominees a fair hearing and a floor vote. Even nominees such as Robert Bork, whom Democrats vehemently opposed, were given that basic courtesy.

Indeed, in the most recent debates over the judiciary, Democrats’ actions have been aimed at guaranteeing fair votes for as many qualified nominees as possible. In response to unprecedented Republican obstruction, Democrats changed the Senate rules in 2013 to allow qualified nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority vote, instead of 60 votes. This change alleviated judicial emergencies across the country by allowing a flood of qualified nominees to be confirmed. (We stopped short of changing the threshold for Supreme Court nominees — maybe that was a mistake.) If Republicans proceed down this path, one side effect will be settling that debate once and for all and proving that Republican obstruction is so extraordinary — so historically unprecedented — that this “nuclear option” was indeed necessary. That said, I would much rather be vindicated in some other way.

I urge my Republican colleagues, for the good of the country and the sanctity of the American system of government, to recall what Sen. Grassley said only a few short years ago: “A Supreme Court nomination isn’t the forum to fight any election. It is the time to perform one of our most important Constitutional duties and decide whether a nominee is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court.”

Those words are as true today as when they were first spoken. Pursuing their radical strategy in a quixotic quest to deny the basic fact that the American people elected President Obama — twice — would rank among the most rash and reckless actions in the history of the Senate. And the consequences will reverberate for decades.

As I’ve warned before, authoritarian movement conservatives threaten the existence of our democracy. They must be stopped, or our great American experiment with democracy will end, to be replaced by authoritarianism and despotism. Do not allow this naked partisanship and obstruction to stand.

3 responses to “The authoritarian GOP war on the courts and the Constitution

  1. American Vendetta

    If Republicans keep the senate and a dem wins the presidency what is to keep them from not ever confirming a replacement? What is to keep them from confirming anyone even with two or theee openings? This is what is concerning about this tactic.

    • Hillary or Bernie are expected to bring out new voters, and Dems usually do well in POTUS years. Down ticket victories are predicted for Dems based on that.

      The right’s gonna’ lose some seats.

      Probably not enough to overcome all the fun gerrymandering, but enough so that there may be some leverage to get congress and the senate working for American’s again.

      Even the GOTeaP folks are fed up with the do nothing congress. Not for the right reasons, but at least they see it, too.

      Vote. Vote like the wind!

  2. I’ve been hearing the right say the SCOTUS seat should remain open for the next POTUS to fill so we can “let the people have a say”.

    The people already had a say. Obama. Twice. By a huge margin.

    If you want to have the powers of POTUS under Article 2 then win an election.

    Until then, let the man I voted for do the job I voted for him to do and STFU.

    When did the right get to be such a bunch of whiny little crybabies?