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Mitch McConnell Didn’t Just Steal A Supreme Court Seat

When history gathers the men who made the presidency of Donald Trump possible, lingering in a corner behind the blinding glare of Julian Assange and the massive 6’8” frame of James Comey will be Mitch McConnell, his corners mouth shaped into a smile that resembles a twisted mustache.

McConnell will want you to believe that history owes him credit for his strategic brilliance. And it’s undeniable that his campaign of massive obstruction topped off by the historic robbery of a Supreme Court seat, helped unite a GOP that was fracturing like a fissured fibula and make Trump’s improbable rise to the White House possible.

The Senate Majority Leader calls not allowing the appointment of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a fair hearing “the most consequential decision I’ve ever been involved in.” And as usual, he’s being both self-congratulatory and deceptive.

Yes, Trump did better with white evangelical voters than Mitt Romney, John McCain and even an actual evangelical George W. Bush, according to an analysis from Pew.

This is a result so unlikely that it’s almost unmistakable from satire.

Trump is a thrice married accumulator of failed casinos, stolen valor from other people’s charity and sexual harassment allegations. For him to even be nearly as competitive with the religious right as devout believers like Romney and Bush or even McCain, the poster boy for the Reagan Revolution, is a monumental victory for both hypocrisy and tactical politics. Trump proved that the right’s feigned concerns for other people’s marriages was absolutely negotiable as long what it was offered in return was up to four revanchist Supreme Court Justices who will reshape and regress America for as long as half a century.

McConnell understands that since Brown v. Board of Education, the Court has been the defining issue for a conservative movement that fully comprehends our justice system’s power to remake or restore old biases. Holding a seat as a lure for the right was an opportunity Trump seized by putting out a list of Heritage Foundation-approved Justices and picking Mike Pence, a walking proof point for the argument that his agenda could be captured by the religious right.

It was a brilliant strategy from a man who has led a movement that recognizing the dusk of its demographic advantages decided to drop all pretenses of pomp and statesmanship for the pure embrace of power politics.

The Senate minority led by McConnell used the filibuster to block 79 of Obama’s nominees by 2013. That’s 79 in less than five five years, “compared with 68 in the entire previous history of the Republic,” Dana Milbank notes. When Senate Republicans refused to confirm anyone to the D.C. appeals court just after President Obama became the first president elected with 51 percent of the popular vote twice, Senate Democrats went nuclear and ended the filibuster for all appointments, except the Supreme Court. McConnell completed the nuclear fallout he made inevitable last week by denying the minority the right to block a young far right Justice selected by a man who lost the popular vote by 3 million usurping an older compromise pick from a genuinely popular president.

McConnell sees shredding of tradition as no vice in the pursuit of preserving privilege.

Nothing was going to stop him from taking Garland’s seat — not even the interference of a foreign government in our election.

This takes us to what Brian Beutler reveals as the real most consequential decision of McConnell’s career” and that’s the decision to shut down any attempt to make the public aware of Russia’s interference into our elections, which had been invited and embraced by Trump himself.

Beutler notes that “leaders of the U.S. intelligence community sought a united front ahead of the fall against Russian election interference—whatever its nature—and McConnell shot it down.” And not only shot it down, promised to impugn any effort to expose Putin’s efforts as false and partisan. This was threat that the Obama Administration calculated would harm both the Clinton campaign and the fabric of our democracy.

“The upshot is that McConnell drew a protective fence around Russian efforts to sabotage Clinton’s candidacy, by characterizing any effort to stop it as partisan politicization of intelligence at Trump’s expense,” Beutler wrote.

So as the FBI investigated a presidential campaign for possible collusion with foreign power, the public only learned of the possible existence, in the days just before the election, of some emails that may have validated the hazy, wild accusations being flung at Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump and his foreign allies.

Rather than broaden its message or revamp its failed policies, the GOP has declared war on democracy. And when history notes who made this strategy and unchecked madman it elected possible, much of the credit should go to Mitch McConnell.

That will be one thing he didn’t steal.

Danziger: They Bombed The Senate To Save It

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

Senate Democrats Amass Support For Gorsuch Filibuster

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats on Monday amassed enough support to block a U.S. Senate confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but Republicans vowed to change the Senate rules to ensure the conservative judge gets the lifetime job.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, setting up a political showdown between Trump’s fellow Republicans and the opposition Democrats that appears likely to trigger a change in long-standing Senate rules to allow his confirmation.

Before the vote, Senator Christopher Coons, a member of the panel, became the 41st Democrat to announce support for a procedural hurdle called a filibuster requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to allow a confirmation vote.

The Senate’s Republican leaders insist Gorsuch will be confirmed on the Senate floor on Friday regardless of what the Democrats do. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

In the face of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be expected to force a confirmation vote by having the Senate change its rules and allow for a simple majority vote for confirmation of Supreme Court justices, a move sometimes called the “nuclear option” that Trump has urged.

Judiciary Committee Republicans blasted Democrats for pursuing what they called the first “partisan filibuster” of a Supreme Court nominee – there was a successful bipartisan filibuster five decades ago against a Democratic president’s nominee – and said it would come to naught because of the threatened rule change.

But it was Senate Republicans who last year refused to even consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Trump has selected Gorsuch to fill.

“Democrats, including me, are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year. But the traditions and principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week,” Coons said.

Coons left room for a compromise, in which Democrats would allow the vote to go ahead in return for Republicans agreeing to a 60-vote threshold for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

“So for my part, I hope and pray that we can yet find a way together to find a solution,” Coons added.

Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat high court’s conservative majority, fulfilling one of Trump’s top campaign promises. Trump in January nominated Gorsuch, a conservative appeals court judge from Colorado, to the lifetime job as a justice. He could be expected to serve for decades.

Gorsuch was nominated to fill a vacancy created by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Republicans control the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade. The inability of Senate Republicans to coax enough Democratic support to avoid the “nuclear option” reflected the intense partisan divide in Washington and the Trump administration’s failure to win the cooperation of the opposition party.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer accused Democrats of partisan obstruction that sets “a very dangerous precedent” and told a briefing that “we’re obviously disappointed that the overwhelming majority of them are still playing politics with the nation’s highest court.” Spicer said the decision on the “nuclear option” rested with McConnell.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, defended Gorsuch as a mainstream jurist worthy of confirmation. Committee Republican John Kennedy called Gorsuch “a legal rock star” and a “thoroughbred.”

Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, and Mark Warner, not a member of the panel, also announced opposition to Gorsuch on Monday and support for a filibuster.

The actual confirmation vote would be by a simple majority if the filibuster is stopped. To date, three Democrats have come out in support of Gorsuch, and the Republicans would have needed to secure eight Democratic votes to kill a Gorsuch filibuster.

With the failure of Republican healthcare legislation in Congress and with courts blocking the president’s ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, winning confirmation for Gorsuch has taken on even more importance for Trump.

Democrats have accused Gorsuch of being insufficiently independent of Trump, evading questions on key Supreme Court rulings of the past including on abortion and political spending, and favoring corporate interests over ordinary Americans.

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who represents the nominee’s home state of Colorado and introduced the nominee during his confirmation hearing, said he would oppose the Gorsuch filibuster effort but did not take a position on whether to vote in favor of the judge.

Feinstein said this was not a “routine nomination,” noting what happened to Garland.

“There was simply no reason that the nomination of Judge Garland could not proceed, other than to deny the then-president of the United States, President Barack Obama, the ability to fill the seat,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein criticized Gorsuch’s rulings against a fired truck driver and an autistic child and faulted his actions as a lawyer in Republican former President George W. Bush’s Justice Department regarding detainee interrogation techniques critics called torture.

Feinstein also said she was disturbed by the millions of dollars of “dark money” from anonymous donors backing advertising and political advocacy by conservative groups to help Gorsuch win confirmation.

The 60-vote super-majority threshold that gives the minority party power to hold up the majority party has over the decades forced the Senate to try to achieve bipartisanship in legislation and in presidential appointments.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican committee member, expressed regret that his party would be forced to change the Senate rules and said the “damage done to the Senate’s going to be real.”

“If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we’re going to have to. I hate that. I really, really do,” Graham said.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a committee Republican, said Democrats were acting under pressure from “the radical left.”

While Gorsuch’s opponents would fight a Senate rule change, it was the Democrats who in 2013 changed the Senate rules to limit filibusters after Republicans used the procedure against Obama’s appeals court nominees. The Senate, then led by Democrats, barred filibusters for executive branch nominees and federal judges aside from Supreme Court justices. Even if Republicans do change the rules, legislation, as opposed to appointments, would still need to meet a 60-vote threshold.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Mohammad Zargham, Tim Ahmann and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

It’s Time For Outrageous Obstruction Against Gorsuch

This article originally appeared in USA Today.

It’s time for the sweet resistance we’re seeing in the streets to start showing up in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats in the chamber have the votes to hold up exactly one major appointment from President Trump without any Republican help. And they should fight Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court with every vote they’ve got — even if it means ending the ability to filibuster any high-court nominations in the future.

They have no other choice.

This is an appointment by the biggest popular vote loser of the modern era to fill a stolen seat. Pretending this is just Senate business as usual would pat the Republican Party on the head for pulling off the heist of the century, and it would give Trump a thumbs up for his first-week “shock and awe” campaign of executive orders designed to roll back immigration, the Affordable Care Act, and voting rights.

It would also show that the elected left has learned nothing in the past eight years.

President Obama was the first candidate since President Eisenhower to win 51 percent of the popular vote twice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s cynical decision to deny Obama the right to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was mustache-twirlingly brilliant.

This scheme helped casino mogul Trump win a larger share of the white evangelical vote than any Republican nominee since 2004 — despite his three marriages, obvious unfamiliarity with the Bible, and tape-recorded boasts about how his fame was all the consent he needed to grope women’s private parts. With “Mr. Evangelical” Mike Pence on the ticket as a walking reminder of the Supreme Court vacancy, the right seized on the chance to maintain their narrow majority and expand upon it.

Yes, blocking Gorsuch would likely be just a symbolic gesture, given that his bona fides as a fairly typical right-wing jurist will likely see him confirmed, possibly with even a few Democratic votes.

So is it worth losing the filibuster, with its supermajority requirement, over him? After all, three of the five justices who keep Roe v. Wade alive are about a decade older than the Golden Girls during their last season on NBC. And if the vacancy helped Trump win, wouldn’t it be a bad idea to focus on this, given that nine of the 10 swing state Senate elections in 2018 take place in states Trump won?

Now you’re thinking like a Democrat.

Taking the high road, expecting that the flames shooting off Republicans’ burning bridges would finally catch up with them, is how we ended up in this mess that cost America its best hope of a progressive Supreme Court in more than 40 years. Face it: All forms of the filibuster are dead as soon as either party needs them to be.

Republicans clearly understood the stakes of the 2016 election. Now the rest of America is starting to get it, possibly because things such as travel bans and the prospect of millions losing insurance have to be experienced to be believed.

Roe v. Wade is an extraordinarily popular ruling. It’s almost as popular as Trump and Pence put together, with seven out of 10 Americans backing it in a recent Quinnipiac poll. And the institution that best reflects the physical incarnation of that decision — Planned Parenthood — is nearly as popular. Those who support continuing funding the reproductive health care non-profit outnumber those who don’t, 2-to-1.

Even if Democrats sat out  2018, the midterm elections will largely be about these two issues for the right, as they have been for at least a decade. So let’s stop shying away from a fight we can win.

The GOP has set norms afire to inflict minority rule on the nation and enable Trump’s blistering overreach. The Gorsuch filibuster has to be just the beginning of the effort to finally battle the Republican fire with the fire these crises warrant.

Democrats need to do everything they can to stop Trump’s agenda, and their best tools for that are the courts — and the Senate, which has tools of obstruction that Democrats have not begun to explore. Staring down Trump in the Senate over and over would focus the nation on Capitol Hill and reflect the extraordinary angst that’s got millions marching in less than two weeks of Trump rule.

Republicans have spent decades weaponizing the Supreme Court as a political tool and are on the brink of a payoff that Trump’s creditors never could have imagined. But they also did something dangerous: They proved there is no price for creative obstruction.

Democrats need to understand they have the people on their side. And to keep them there, they have to be willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous obstruction. Our democracy depends on it.

IMAGE: Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch meets with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts