Monday Republican Arizona Senator John McCain was in Pennsylvania campaigning for his Republican colleague Pat Toomey. Both are up for reelection. McCain made an appearance on WPHT’s Dom Giordano Program during which he made the following statement: “I promise you that we [Senate Republicans] will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were President, would put up.” Suppress your urge to vomit and let’s explore.
I am taking the risk of writing this before Wednesday night’s debate, but most credible observers feel the Presidential race is over and the focus is now increasingly shifting to control of the Senate. McCain is making a desperate appeal to the radical right which is the only part of the Republican base that is still reliable. The problem for Trump and many other Republicans is that it is too small to win with. However they have basically made their bed and now they have to lie in it.
With Antonin Scalia’s passing a vacancy was created on the Supreme Court. The Constitution says that the President nominates a candidate which the Senate must either confirm or reject. The Republican reaction is that they will not proceed on any nominees in the last year of a President’s term. That is a “rule of convenience” and is found nowhere in law. The current Court is operating a justice short and ironically the repercussions of that have actually hurt the right wing more often than not.
Now McCain is suggesting that the Republicans will simply obstruct any nominee Hillary Clinton puts forth over her four years. I’m stealing a line from Salon magazine, but it does make the Republicans look like the Grand Obstructionist Party. Perhaps the Senate Republicans want to operate under a new rule: We will only proceed on the Supreme Court nominees of white, Republican, male Presidents. While many Republicans are racist and/or misogynist, I find nothing in McCain’s history to indicate that he is either. More likely he is just pandering to the lowest common denominator in his base.
Under the current rules of the Senate judicial nominees to any federal court below the Supreme Court are not subject to the filibuster. If the Democrats flip five seats next month they will have the majority in the next Senate. They could, and if McCain’s statement represents Republican policy, they should change the chamber’s rules to exclude Supreme Court nominees from the filibuster.
This is somewhat of an unusual stance for me. I am basically a Senate traditionalist and defend the filibuster. Without going on and on, I see its value. I also know that today’s majority will probably be tomorrow’s minority and vice versa over time.
This point illustrates the need for Democrats to take back the Senate. To break a filibuster you need 60 votes in the Senate. I haven’t seen anyone (certainly including me) predicting the Democrats will have 60 seats in the next Senate. I won’t put a definitive number on it today but when and if I do that number will be less than 60.
There are several other possible implications to a continued Republican obstruction of all Supreme Court nominees which I don’t have the time and space to cover here today. The bottom line is that the Democrats must take control of the Senate and change the Supreme Court filibuster rule (which they can do with a simple majority).
The responsibility for making that a possibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the American voting public. Only one Senate race is guaranteed to stay with the same Party. In California Barbara Boxer is retiring and by the quirkiness of California election law the two candidates are both Democrats. At this writing several Senate races across the nation are close and could go either way; Arizona and Pennsylvania’s races, while not necessarily the Democrats’ best chances for a pickups are two of them.
There is a ton of rhetoric during any campaign. To candidates talk is cheap. I like to look at how and where they are spending their money. Over the past few days Clinton has announced increasing spending and is deploying her most impactful surrogates to states like Arizona that she doesn’t necessarily need for victory but have close Senate races where a Democratic win would make her presidency more effective.
Get out and vote. Your taxes fund a working Senate and you deserve one. In the final analysis you get what you pay for only if you do your job.
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