So this happened in February 2016: Justice Scalia died. And unexpectedly, President Obama got the opportunity to nominate another judge to the Supreme Court.
How did the Republicans respond? Within minutes, the battle lines were drawn with warnings that President Obama should not be doing so because his mandate was stale. They then escalated the threat to a new level: they refused to even consider anyone President Obama would nominate. Forget confirmation hearings, they vowed to not even meet with him.
Heck, Mitch paid him a personal visit to tell him that:
This, of course, enraged Democrats so much that they sent out tweets. TWEETS! I tell ya! T W E E T S!!!!
And there was much rejoicing the land over. The jubilation was over how the nation would be enraged at the obstructionist Republicans, that, that... the vulnerable Republicans would be browbeaten into squealing with pain and there will be panic in the ranks.
Also because unlike the rest of us, the Republican leadership had not thought it through. Now there'll be a vote. If only Obama nominated someone reasonable.
“The president told me several times he’s going to name a moderate [to fill the court vacancy], but I don’t believe him. [Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”
So all President Obama had to do was nominate someone like Merrick Garland. Instead, he nominated Merrick Garland.
Wait, I thought all that was supposed to have scared McConnell, what happened? Maybe the rest of the country did not agree with Obama. Maybe they felt that there should be no vote for his nominee. That must have been it.
Wait, that's not what the polls are saying. In fact, polls indicate that more than half of the nation wants the Senate to schedule a vote for the nominee.
Oh. In that case, I bet the vulnerable senators like Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk etc. are panicking.
Yes indeed, that does appear to be the case. They. Are. Panicking.
There will be no vote. Mitch McConnell knows exactly what he is doing, and he is not going to hold a vote on Obama's nominee as he vowed. It is not in the best interests of the Republicans. Most likely, neither he nor the GOP will pay a price for it.
Here's the bottom line: if the GOP wins the White House in 2017, this obstruction pays off huge. Even if they lose the Senate, the next President will get to nominate the SCOTUS justice. If they do not, there will be no downside unless they lose the Senate because of this obstruction. They may, but it is unlikely to be because of this obstruction. The voters have a short memory, and this is not that pressing an issue.
Don't believe me?
Recall that in December 2013, the GOP led by Ted Cruz shut the government down. That was a big deal. People were furious. They paid attention. Yet, in November 2014, the GOP routed the Democrats in Congress. The House soared to a historic majority, and the Senate flipped from 45-55 to 55-45.
Anyone confident that the Senate will flip in November 2016, just because this is a presidential election year? In 2012, they were only able to gain two seats, and they had a sitting President running for re-election then. They need to gain at least five here. So think again.
OK, so how will the GOP handle the vulnerable senate seats? That's easy. Just get the vulnerable senators to state this:
"I disagree with my leadership. We should honor the Constitution and give the nominee a fair hearing. I will buck my leadership, reach across the aisle and meet with Judge Garland. I want to do what is right, and will not play partisan politics."There, problem solved. You can no longer blame the Ayottes and the Kirks on this matter, because, see, they are reasonable.
There still will be no vote.
If you are a Republican, you have all the cards here, and you're sitting pretty.You are likely to be no worse, and should you flip the White House, you gain with your obstruction.
What can the Democrats do? If history teaches us anything, they'll mostly just whine and whine more that the GOP is obstructionist, and not respecting the Constitution or the President. True to form, they're doing just that.
What can they do if they magically grow a spine?
They could engage the mighty Obama political machinery. Use this as a wedge issue and relentlessly hammer the vulnerable senators like they have not done before. Ads, ads, and more ads. Public appearances, town halls, talk shows, and more ads. Ads that
- Hammers the Republican regardless of his or her stated position, pointing out that they vote 90-95 percent of the time with the leadership, and that this congenial stance is a lie;
- Hammers them for being closely tied to Drumpf.
On the first day that the Senate convenes in January 2017, change the filibuster rules on SCOTUS nominees and force a vote for not one, but three justices. Obama would leave office having appointed five new Supreme Court justices.
This is the last chance Democrats will get to arrest the rightwing ascendancy that has swept the nation since 2010.
Do you think Mitch McConnell will conduct hearings and/or a vote?
Assuming that he does not, depending on your political persuasion, what would you pursue as an alternate strategy?
Or, do you think things will unfold differently? How?