WaPo: Will Senate Dems' midterm losses squeeze Harris off Judiciary?

Kavanaughncequences continue to echo through the Senate. Thanks to a new 53-47 Republican majority (assuming Cindy Hyde-Smith wins tomorrow’s runoff), Mitch McConnell and new Judiciary Committee chair-apparent Lindsey Graham plan on putting new reforms in place to limit the chances for a repeat of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation-hearings debacle. Among the reforms is a reduction of seats on the panel, which would speed up the process and leave less room for Neo-Spartacus showboating.

That game of musical chairs might leave one potential 2020 challenger without a seat after the music stops, only perhaps not the one most deserving of the boot:

Senate Democrats’ midterm losses have created a dilemma for the party’s leadership over a key committee seat held by Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a prospective 2020 presidential contender who is at risk of having to forfeit the high-profile assignment and the national spotlight that comes with it.

Harris, a former prosecutor and state attorney general, is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s most junior member. The panel’s investigations and Supreme Court confirmation battles have commanded regular media coverage since President Trump entered the Oval Office. It’s the kind of exposure a new senator usually could only dream of, and with everything from an attorney general confirmation to oversight of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe on next year’s agenda, its limelight won’t soon fade.

Yet unless Democrats strike a deal, either with the Senate’s Republican majority or with fellow Democrats on the committee, numbers and seniority dictate that Harris will be out — and that has liberal groups scrambling to save her position.

The move makes sense both in terms of numbers and of process. A committee of 21 for a body of 100 is already bloated. Nothing passes out of Judiciary without getting a vote from the full Senate, so why have a committee that comprises 21% of the full body? Committee hearings are tedious enough as it is without having to get 21 versions of two flavors. Better to have fewer members and allow each more time for more relevant discussions, or better yet, eliminate some opportunities for grandstanding.

Unfortunately, seniority rules would dictate that the biggest grandstander in the Kavanaugh circus — Cory “Spartacus” Booker — would keep his seat. But Harris was no piker when it came to grandstanding either. The Washington Post’s report showers Harris with praise for her interrogation skills, but she flopped spectacularly during the Kavanaugh hearing. At first, Harris drew rebukes from PolitiFact and the Post itself (four Pinocchios) for lying about Kavanaugh’s position on abortifacients.

It then got worse. Harris accused Kavanaugh of discussing the Mueller probe with members of a DC law firm, and implied that he had committed perjury. It turned out to be a thoroughly dishonest stunt, exposed as such when Harris never produced any factual basis for her question. It wasn’t the first bit of McCarthyism seen at Kavanaughs’s hearing or the last either, but it shouldn’t pass out of memory for its sliminess.

Naturally, Harris’ supporters are implying that both Republicans and Democrats are operating from racist motives if Harris gets the boot:

“Not only would it be unconscionable to remove the only African American woman from the committee, but Sen. Harris also is the most skilled questioner on the entire panel,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group challenging Trump’s nominations for federal judgeships. “Whatever options they need to consider, removing Harris should not be one of them. The backlash would be intense.” …

For Democrats who have repeatedly pointed out that the Republican side of the dais is all male and all white, the prospect of losing Harris is anathema.

That’s up to her fellow Democrats. Republicans don’t control Democratic committee assignments. All Harris needs is for one of her colleagues to move off the committee — but so far, no one’s volunteering for it. Booker has the same 2020 aspirations and just as few qualifications for them. Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons handled themselves professionally during the Kavanaugh hearings and would no doubt resent being removed to protect someone who behaved very badly. Progressives are already unhappy with ranking member Dianne Feinstein, but she’s not about to give up her perch on the committee — especially not to mollify the same progressives that just tried to chase her out of the Senate with a primary challenge.

Maybe the solution would be to find better committee assignments for Mazie Hirono and/or Sheldon Whitehouse, both of whom also embarrassed themselves in the Kavanaugh circus. Or perhaps Graham and McConnell might trim the committee even further in order to incentivize their departures. A committee of 15 seems more manageable and less likely to serve as a platform for presidential wannabes in the coming session of Congress. That would force Hirono, Booker, and Harris off on seniority grounds, while losing only John Kennedy on the Republican side plus two vacancies (Grassley and Jeff Flake). It certainly would make confirmation hearings shorter, and perhaps send a message about tactics and Kavanaughncequences.