Having dropped out of the 2020 presidential primary, Senator Kamala Harris apparently has plenty of time on her hands to take care of her regular legislative duties. (I mean, she’s got to find a way to kill some time until learning who asks her to be their VP candidate, right?) But one item not on her agenda is voting on any more of President Trump’s judicial nominees. Harris came out this week and stated that no such votes should be held until the impeachment trial is over. (The Hill)
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called for a moratorium on judicial nominees during President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, citing a similar pause during former President Clinton’s trial in 1999.
“The president is charged with high crimes and misdemeanors, and the Senate must take seriously its constitutional role in this process,” Harris said in a statement. “During the time when articles of impeachment are before the Senate, it would be wholly inappropriate to advance the president’s nominees to the federal judiciary.”
Harris’s statement notes that between the delivery of the Clinton articles of impeachment to the Senate and the Senate’s verdict on Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not convene any nomination hearings or advance any nominations to confirmation votes. While Senate committees cannot hold votes during impeachment trials, they are free to hold hearings.
In a rather amusing response to this demand, Ted Cruz issued a rather blunt, one word response on Twitter.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 16, 2020
This nonsense should be easily cleared up in the Senate. The obvious premise for Harris’ position is that having the President on trial for alleged high crimes and misdemeanors somehow undermines the legitimacy of his judicial nominees. That position is as absurd as it is incorrect. Being accused of wrongdoing is not the same as being found guilty (and in this case, removed). It’s the old “innocent until proven guilty” thing. As such, even in some fantasy world where the Senate was actually going to convict Trump, any nominations made by the President are equally valid unless and until he is removed from office.
None of that matters all that much anyway. The various committees can’t hold any votes while the trial is underway because all 100 of them will have to be in their seats to participate in the trial. But the trial doesn’t gavel into session until noon each day, so any other regular business could proceed prior to lunch if the Senators wish to structure the rules that way. (All of the rules pertaining to this process can be modified at any time by a simple majority vote if McConnell wants to bring such proposals to the floor.)
What this is really about is the fact that the Democrats in the Senate are despondent over the number of Trump’s nominees that have been confirmed thus far. Cocaine Mitch is closing in on a record-breaking pace for getting the President’s judicial appointments approved and on the bench. He’s already reshaped the traditionally liberal Ninth Circuit considerably and there are still many more openings awaiting fresh faces. The idea that Trump and McConnell are going to take their foot off the gas because of the impeachment circus is implausible, to say the least.
But hey… if Harris wants to keep her hand in the game, I suppose she’s entitled. Now that she doesn’t have to worry about campaigning or attending the debates, she probably wants to keep her name in the news cycle. And all the Democrats who think she may still wind up being Vice President probably want to stay on her good side.