Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell is the worst kind of hypocrite. First, he demands that Senate committees vote through Trump cabinet picks when they haven’t even had backgrounds checks completed—something he demanded of Obama’s picks. Now, he is mulling the nuclear option to get Judge Neil Gorsuch approved for the Supreme Court. Of course, McConnell wouldn’t even hold meetings or a hearing for Obama pick Judge Merrick Garland.
Democrats in the country can be excused if they think this SCOTUS seat was stolen. Obama was president, there was a vacancy on the court, he nominated an eminently qualified jurist in Merrick Garland from the US Court of Appeals, Washington, DC Circuit. The Senate could be expected to advise and consent, right? Vote for him or against him. But no.
McConnell decided to play politics with the highest court in the land by heading Trump’s call to “delay, delay, delay.” McConnell and other GOP leaders argued that there was an election coming up and “the people” should have their say on who would make the next SCOTUS selection. The problem is, the people already did—they elected Obama.
So now that President Trump has selected a seemingly conservative jurist to the court (as is his right), McConnell is demanding timely action. He is reserving the right to use the nuclear option—changing the rules so only 51 senators need to vote to confirm.
However, while McConnell’s duplicitous approach is not really surprising, Democrats need only look in the mirror for letting Republicans get away with the unprecedented delay on the Garland vote and the theft of a seat on the Supreme Court.
Democratic strategists had 10 months in an election season to build a groundswell of outrage against the Republican obfuscation. How could the grassroots party faithful not be outraged at McConnell’s four-corners offense? The Senate is supposed to advise and consent on judicial nominees made by the president. It’s in the Constitution, right there in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.
But the Democrats failed. Or perhaps the country was otherwise engaged by a carnival-barking, game-show-hosting, insulting, degrading, bullying disgrace of a candidate for president.
Now the Democrats are stuck. They don’t have the numbers to delay Gorsuch’s nomination for four years (and they’d be just as bad as the Republicans if they did so anyway). McConnell’s deceitful delay tactics notwithstanding, he has his finger on the legislative nuclear option that Trump is already urging him to use.
The very good news is that SCOTUS judges, as soon as they are seated, can turn around and give a big middle finger to the ideologues who appointed them (see David Souter). Judge Gorsuch is no way beholden to Trump, McConnell or anyone else. As much as he might try, Trump can’t tell Gorsuch, “You’re fired.”