To quote the esteemed sportsman and philosopher Charles Barkley — If ifs and buts were beer and nuts, we’d all have a hell of a party. It’s tough to figure out what point Dick Durbin was trying to make here, as we all know that Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee have nothing at all in common with either baseball or football.
Gladiatorial combat, maybe, but those rarely get canceled over epidemic concerns either:
Durbin tells MSNBC: “If this were a baseball team or a football team and three of the players came down with COVID-19, we would have cancelled the game and postponed it to a future date."
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) October 5, 2020
Thus far the video of that exchange hasn’t made its way onto social media or YouTube. Another exchange in the same interview with MSNBC has been clipped, in which Durbin claims that Mitch McConnell is “hell bent to get this done,” which adds nothing either. Durbin’s sports analogy makes it pretty clear that he’s just as “hell-bent” to block Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation:
Not to belabor the obvious, but the reason that football and baseball games get postponed is because they can’t be played on Zoom. Sports have to be played in person, whereas meetings of all sorts can take place over teleconferencing platforms. As the RNC is gleefully pointing out today, none other than Dick Durbin made that argument forcefully seven months ago in demanding that McConnell allow the Senate to operate remotely, even for floor votes.
“Why is it required that we be physically present on the floor,” Durbin objected on March 19, “closer to one another perhaps than we should be, at this moment of a public-health crisis?”
With the SCOTUS Apocalypse upon them, suddenly Senate Democrats are singing a different tune, and it’s not just Durbin who’s hit reverse on virtual hearings and votes on the Judiciary Committee. Amy Klobuchar tried arguing on Fox News Sunday yesterday that a Supreme Court confirmation process requires in-person hearings, but Chris Wallace wasn’t having any of it — which the Senate Republicans’ comms group noted on Twitter yesterday. (Note that they have edited the exchange; the transcript has the full exchange.)
Eventually, Klobuchar just changes the subject to the Phase 4 relief bill:
WALLACE: In May, when Chairman Graham held a virtual hearing, you very much praised him & thanked him for doing that. So you could hold a virtual hearing for Judge Barrett?
KLOBUCHAR: I helped to put them [virtual hearings] together, it's important to give Senators that option. pic.twitter.com/8nPxHDdYdA
— Senate Republican Communications Center (@SRCC) October 4, 2020
WALLACE: Senator — but, Senator, the fact is that you can hold hearings in different ways. In fact, last May, when the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, held a virtual hearing, you very much praised him and thanked him for doing that. So you could hold a virtual hearing for — for Judge Barrett, which raises the question again, are you trying to use the fact that there has been this outbreak, at least three Republican senators, to try to block a nomination that you, frankly, oppose fiercely?
KLOBUCHAR: Absolutely not. This is for the highest court of the land. And, yes we have had virtual hearings. I helped to put them together. It’s important to give senators that option. But you want to be able to go back and forth with this nominee. Given her views on the Affordable Care Act, given that she has clearly criticized Justice Roberts, who again, not exactly a blazing liberal, for upholding the constitutional — the Affordable Care Act, which allows people to keep their insurance when they’ve got pre-existing conditions, and she has criticized that, yes, we want to be able to ask her —
WALLACE: Yes, but we’re doing — we’re doing this virtually — Senator, we’re doing this virtually —
WALLACE: So why can’t you question Judge Barrett virtually?
KLOBUCHAR: Again, we believe you should have an in person hearing. That doesn’t mean the virtual option wouldn’t be available, but why would you ram — I guess I turn the question around here, even though you get to ask the questions, why would you ram this through when we don’t even have a Covid package done to make sure that people have health care, that we have the testing I just talked about, that we have the funding for that.
And of course, all of this ignores the obvious problem with the objection from Durbin and Klobuchar. They don’t want a hearing to vet Barrett; they want a hearing to vent about Barrett, at length and on camera, to appease their party’s progressive-activist wing. Democrats planned for gladiatorial combat in a last-ditch effort to derail her confirmation and addition to the Supreme Court. This is just another tactic to short-circuit the process and grind it to a halt.
With that said, though, it’s unclear why Democrats couldn’t conduct their gladiatorial combat over Zoom. All they want is sound bites, and a virtual hearing gives them the same opportunities to produce those. It’s not as if they’re keeping an open mind about their confirmation vote anyway.