Now another Supreme Court seat has opened shortly before an election. McConnell promptly promised to fill the seat, tacitly admitting what had been clear to most people all along: The Garland blockade was always about power politics, not precedent or procedure. Biden continues to act, however, as though appeals to propriety can work. Granted, he is not the president—at least not yet, though he believes he will be soon. Still, his appeal to GOP senators has provided a good test run for how his aisle-reaching might go, and it’s not encouraging.
There are simply not that many senators who are even plausible targets: a small crew of moderates, Trump tormentors, endangered incumbents, and old-school proceduralists. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (columns A and B) announced Sunday that she would not support holding a vote, though Biden probably doesn’t deserve much credit for that; Murkowski was reaffirming a position she had already staked before Ginsburg’s death. Susan Collins of Maine (columns A and C) said, even before Biden spoke, that the winner of the election should pick the next justice. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona (column C) both said they support holding a vote. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (column D) did too, and he’s retiring anyway. That left Romney (column B, and maybe a little of A and D), and today the Utahan announced that he supports a vote.
In short, Biden’s heartfelt appeal doesn’t appear to have moved a single senator. If he wins, Biden will have to reckon with the shortcomings of this approach quickly. He would inherit a country in economic collapse, still suffering grievously from COVID-19, and facing the challenges of four years of toxic management by Trump. If Republicans hold the Senate—and at the moment, the odds are roughly even that they will—they’ll be able to block anything he wants to do, if they can stick together as a bloc. Even if Democrats win control, Republicans could filibuster—a tool that many Democrats want to eliminate, but that Biden, himself a proceduralist, prefers to keep.