“Today is different,” Chuck Grassley intoned at the start of today’s session in the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, the gallery busily proved him wrong. A score of shouting protesters had to be dragged from the room at the same time that the Senate Judiciary chair declared that the obstruction and procedural stunts would fade from memory:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 5, 2018
I’m not sure which chants were different today. I believe we heard “sham president, sham justice!” at least once on the first day. My favorite so far is “Mother Earth! Mother Earth!” for its utter lack of specific policy. Maybe that woman was just praying … loudly. Or not.
Perhaps Grassley just meant that the Democrats on the panel got their obstructiveness out of their system and plan to settle down for their 30-minute time slots to interrogate Kavanaugh. That might seem reasonable and rational, but, er … don’t bet on it:
Could be some Senate floor shenanigans at noon if Dems invoke obscure "two hour" rule to shut down committee biz (and Kavanaugh's hearing). But Rs, anticipating this, would also adjourn within the two-hour time frame — which would prevent Ds from successfully invoking the rule.
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 5, 2018
Hey, Chuck Schumer has progressive activists to mollify! Right now, teams of researchers are poring over Roberts’s Rules of Order to find any procedural trick they can to derail the hearings, even though the outcome won’t change a whit if they do. It’s all about the posturing, as I write in my column for The Week, not about policy or governance:
“We’ve accepted a new theory about how our three branches of government should work, and in particular the judiciary,” Sasse explained. Congress keeps dishing out its authority to the executive and judicial branches out of a craven impulse to avoid governing in ways that might cost incumbents votes. “If people want to want to get re-elected over and over again and that’s your highest goal,” he continued, “then actually giving away your power is a pretty good strategy.” The end result, Sasse concluded, is “Congress has decided to self-neuter,” in favor of leaving tough decisions to the other two branches, and “that means the people are cut out of the process.” That, Sasse declared, is why “every confirmation hearing now is going to be an overblown politicized circus.”
It’s certainly why the hearings have become not just an afterthought but entirely superfluous. With legislative activity moving to the judiciary, it’s no longer enough to have qualified jurists appointed to those positions to act as neutral referees on congressional and executive action. Both sides want activists to legislate for life from those spots, and both sides are willing to play hardball to win their voter-free elections in the form of confirmation votes.
Ironically, of course, jurists like Neil Gorsuch and perhaps to a lesser extent Brett Kavanaugh could be the solution to this conundrum. A Supreme Court that sticks to an originalist reading of the Constitution would deflect political and policy questions back to the political and policy branches, rather than carve out more jurisdiction for themselves in one direction or another. Unfortunately, the process has become so embarrassing and such an obvious put-on that few can trust either side to nominate and confirm justices truly interested in that kind of reformed view of the judiciary.
The best for which we can hope is that such nominees manage to eke their way through the gladiatorial process that decades of game-playing has produced — a process that, like the opening of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, is full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
In other words, get ready for Sound And Fury II: Nothing Boogaloo today. Coming as this does the week after National Why Can’t We Just Get Along Week, it’s certainly enlightening, as our friend Larry O’Connor points out this morning:
Glad to know the Democrats were so genuine in their praise for the late senator and their lamentations for a more congenial, respectful Senate
— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) September 5, 2018