The latest dump-Kamala "nuclear option" rumor -- excuse me, rumour

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

If palace-intrigue rumors comes to us from the British press, I believe we’re required to use their style guide, after all. The Daily Telegraph rehashes the dump-Kamala rumours that swirled around Washington DC before Thanksgiving, extending what is either a weird trial balloon or an artifact of panic over Joe Biden’s collapsing poll numbers.

I’ll bet on panic, via Twitchy:

Democrats desperately scrambling to find a potential successor to Joe Biden in 2024 are whispering about a potential nuclear option that could see Kamala Harris, the current Vice President, nominated to the Supreme Court.

While the scenario is highly improbable, and perhaps a reflection of a Washington rumour mill in overdrive, the fact it has come up at all shows the depths of the predicament the Biden administration currently finds itself in, amid rising inflation, a stalled domestic agenda, and foreign policy disasters. …

The left-field Supreme Court theory would mean Mr Biden nominating Ms Harris, a former high-flying prosecutor, if a seat on the court became available over the next three years, which it may well. Mr Biden could then use Section 2 of the 25th Amendment to nominate a more popular vice president.

That person would be the presumptive Democrat nominee should Mr Biden not run for re-election at the age of 82.

If Mr Biden stepped down before Nov 2024, the new vice president, under Section 1 of the 25th Amendment, would assume the presidency, and be able to run as an incumbent.

It is, of course, all wildly hypothetical, but constitutionally feasible.

Is it possible? Er … sure. But it’s highly unlikely, and won’t solve anyone’s problems, least of all Biden’s. Besides, all of this talk about the “nuclear option” isn’t going to make voters any more enamored of the Democrats, or impressed with their governing abilities.

First, Biden can nominate a sitting VP to the Supreme Court. There isn’t any legal or constitutional impediment for that. Nothing would require Harris to resign first either; the Senate could take up her nomination while she remains its ex officio president, even if that raises a few eyebrows about propriety. Harris would have to resign on confirmation to the Supreme Court, of course, but that’s precisely what Biden would ostensibly want out of this process.

But what happens if the Senate doesn’t confirm Harris? She could hardly be allowed to cast the tie-breaking vote on her own nomination, and Republicans would have no reason to go along with this sham — especially since it’s clear intent is to improve Democrats’ electoral standing for the 2024 election. Also, Harris has no obvious qualifications for the Supreme Court. She has never served as a judge at all, and her tenure as San Francisco DA and California’s AG were at best undistinguished. The only qualification Harris has for the top court is her party’s need to kick her upstairs to get her out of the way.

Even if she did get confirmed, which seems unlikely in this session of Congress (and the next, the way polls are going), that leaves Biden with the problem of getting another VP confirmed. According to the 25th Amendment, both chambers of Congress have to confirm this choice. With Kamala Harris on the Supreme Court, the tiebreaker in the Senate will have disappeared, too. Which Democrat with 2024 or 2028 aspirations will get at least one Senate Republican vote without losing at least four House progressives? And again, why would Senate Republicans work with Biden on this electoral sleight-of-hand at all? If they just stand pat, Kevin McCarthy would be the next person in the presidential line of succession if the VP office remains vacant, assuming the GOP can score the slam-dunk coming in the midterms.

It would take some alacrity to thread that needle, assuming it could be threaded at all. And Biden is not a skilled tailor.

That brings us to the real problem in the White House and why this entire exercise misses the point. It doesn’t solve the real problem, which is Biden himself. Harris’ approval numbers may be lower than Biden’s, but they’re meaningless at this point. They may even just be a totem for Democrats to safely register their displeasure with Biden. The buck for this disastrous presidency doesn’t stop in Harris’ office, after all, no matter how much panicky Democrats want to shift the blame.

Anyway, we hear these rumors in every first-term presidency. I’m old enough to recall when George W. Bush wanted to dump Dick Cheney, when Barack Obama wanted to dump Joe Biden, and maybe even Ronald Reagan supposedly reconsidered George H. W. Bush before 1984. It’s all nonsense, but it is rather remarkable to see these rumors begin to fly in the first year of Biden’s presidency. Excuse me, rumours.