Conscience and Compromise

Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice. This will be done by Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, invoking the “nuclear” option, meaning he will move to change the rules by which the Senate confirms justices.

Historically, 60 votes were required, which in today’s senate, would mean eight democratic senators would have to vote to approve a nomination. After the expected change, a simple majority of 51 senators will be sufficient to approve (actually, 50 plus Pence), so Republicans can install a judge of their choosing without requiring a broader consensus.

This is a very, very bad thing. It will mean that any incentive to work with colleagues “on the other side” will be more or less formally removed from the Senate, the last place where it existed. It will mean that Trump can now nominate any crazy person he wants for future picks, and given his public criticism of any judge that has correctly ruled against him, as well as his outrageously inappropriate picks for cabinet positions, one can only imagine what we’re in for now. And when you think of the thousands of lawsuits the man-baby has been part of, and his thin-skinned obsession with revenge, it’s just that much worse.

As Senator Blumenthal said, the reason they call it the “nuclear option” is because it has long-lasting negative impacts.

Though Gorsuch may be qualified based on his resumé, he has been evasive in answering questions – he hasn’t really answered any at all during his hearings – and is sure to vote the way conservatives want him to on virtually all matters. These things are reason enough for Democrats to oppose him, though in the past they might not have. This time is different and their opposition is less reasonable (but completely understandable, if that makes any sense).

As everyone knows, Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court last year by Barack Obama. Everyone also knows Garland was a great pick, qualified by any measure, and a non-ideological centrist who should have had no problems in confirmation hearings. But no hearings were held and no Republican even gave Garland the courtesy of a private meeting to get to know him.

Instead, they chose to have an 8-Justice Supreme-Court for a year, one that was divided along “party lines”, though the very idea of such a division in the judiciary runs counter to everything the founding documents intended. Republicans did this because they think that judges cannot be impartial, or because they want one who they know is not.

They felt completely justified in this absurd behavior because the Democrats managed to get the Affordable Care Act passed without any Republicans voting for it, basically by resorting to the same kind of tactic Republicans will now use to install Gorsuch. The reason for Republican opposition to the A.C.A. was that passing it would be a major success for Obama, something they just couldn’t tolerate. At that time, Mitch McConnell was furious about it, saying it was “absolutely clear that they intend to carry out all of their plans on a purely partisan basis. Look … we expect to be a part of the process.”

Republicans have never stopped suing, complaining, and campaigning against the A.C.A. and the Democrats’ tactics, and had pledged to repeal it the first day of the Trump administration. Interestingly, they were unable to do it, primarily because they had no alternative, which really does clarify their original motives to oppose it.

The Democrats only resorted to this tactic in the first place because of the now-infamous Republican obstructionism for any initiative or appointment at all made by Obama during his eight years. In other words, it was and is Republican intransigence that has brought us here, though I’m sure any Republican reading this will have exactly the opposite view. I would ask them to first have a quick look at this piece from the failing New York Times for some arguments that support my view of it. But then, it’s the NYT, so feel free to disregard as fake left-wing propaganda, amirite?

Compromise is dead. What about conscience?

To me, the most telling part of the whole Gorsuch debacle is that four Democrats have decided to break ranks and vote for Gorsuch. Aha!, I hear you exclaim. So reason is not dead, compromise is still possible, and  some people do still vote their conscience even in the face of political pressure not to!

Not so fast.

The four Democrats who are voting for Gorsuch are all up for re-election in a state that was won by Trump. Their reason for this vote is even worse than those who have blind commitment to their “team” – it’s simple self-interest. They fear that if they oppose Gorsuch they will lose their job, and losing your job is now a much more important consideration than doing the right thing.

Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.),  Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) are the four and they have been the focus of a $10 million ad campaign by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which is pressuring Democrats facing reelection next year in states that Trump won in November to vote for Gorsuch.

The way out of this mess is for McConnell to accept a vote not to confirm and move on to the next nominee (Merrick Garland would be a fabulous choice at this point). The Republicans have a slap in the face coming, and they should just take it for the good of the country and to avoid negative consequences for the next three years and beyond. It’s the way to relieve the bitterness of partisanship rather than exacerbate it and cast it in stone, and it’s a way to claw back some of the authority granted to congress by our founding documents. This authority has been too swiftly, eagerly, and dangerously ceded to Trump and his itchy Twitter-finger.

That won’t happen though – it would require both conscience and compromise. McConnell is not the man for either.




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