Harry Reid: Don't worry, Senate Republicans will cave on Obama's SCOTUS nominee

A leftover from yesterday via Mediaite. I hate it when he’s right.

Is he right, though? Hard to imagine that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley would commit themselves in writing to blocking the nominee if they weren’t prepared to follow through:

Rarely does a Supreme Court vacancy occur in the final year of a presidential term, and the Senate has not confirmed a nominee to fill a vacancy arising in such circumstances for the better part of a century. So the American people have a particular opportunity now to make their voice heard in the selection of Scalia’s successor as they participate in the process to select their next president — as they decide who they trust to both lead the country and nominate the next Supreme Court justice. How often does someone from Ashland, Ky., or Zearing, Iowa, get to have such impact?

We don’t think the American people should be robbed of this unique opportunity. Democrats beg to differ. They’d rather the Senate simply push through yet another lifetime appointment by a president on his way out the door…

Indeed, this is the kind of logic that led more than two dozen Democratic senators — including Sens. Reid, Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and then-senators Barack Obama (Ill.), Joe Biden (Del.), John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) — to vote to deny President George W. Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, an up-or-down vote…

That was when Schumer, today the heir apparent as Senate Democratic leader, gave a lengthy and stirring speech to the left-leaning American Constitution Society — 18 months, or 1½ years, before the end of Bush’s term — in which he declared that the Senate “should reverse the presumption of confirmation” and “not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.”

That’s a populist note in a populist climate: The people, not Barack Obama, deserve to say who should make this appointment. If McConnell and Grassley cave now, it’s not just conservatives they’re betraying. It’s the alleged right of voters to decide the fate of the Supreme Court.

We’ll see how long that lasts. Biden hinted yesterday that Obama would nominate someone who can plausibly be presented as centrist, which is smart politics insofar as it would deny McConnell the chance to claim that the GOP’s opposition is due to the nominee’s “extremism.” Sri Srinivasan has been touted for his bipartisan record and he’s the name who seems to be coming up most among the smart set. Another possibility (not mutually exclusive with the first) is that the White House will try to wring every inch of racial demagoguery out of this opportunity by nominating someone who’s black or Latino and then screeching that prejudice is the only possible explanation for GOP obstructionism — even though they’ve already made their obstructionist intent clear before Obama has floated any names. The NYT published a splashy piece a few days ago about black voters perceiving bigotry in Republicans trying to deny Obama another Supreme Court appointment. If Loretta Lynch, say, is Obama’s nominee, that effect will only be compounded, especially once the media gets cracking with soft-focus interviews with the nominee nudging him/her about the GOP’s “motives.” Is McConnell ready for 10 months of that?

Here’s Reid patting himself on the back over the fact that Democrats never filibustered a Republican Court nominee, which ignores the fact that (a) plenty of them tried, including Sen. Barack Obama, and (b) they did successfully filibuster Miguel Estrada’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit — seven times, precisely because it was an obvious stepping stone to the Supreme Court. Here’s your exit quotation, via Ed Whelan. Any guesses on which Democratic leading light said this in 2005? “The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere in that document does it say that the Senate has a duty to give Presidential appointees [sic; he means ‘nominees’] a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying very nominee receives a vote.”

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David Strom 9:21 PM on February 02, 2023