Scalia’s Death and Obstruction in the Senate

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Feb 15, 2016 (San Diego) The death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was unexpected. It is now a political earthquake inside the beltway. It is also about to become a real test for Beltway disfunction. We know that Republicans had a meeting back in 2008 after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. The goal was simple: To stop the agenda of the newly sworn in President by any means possible.

It was a statement of purpose from a party that has become increasingly radical that was both wide and incredible. Republicans decided to become a radical party somewhere in the 1990s. They also who refuse to acknowledge that democrats can indeed be voted into office, especially the White House.

This story was reported among others, by Frontline, early on.

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.

“The room was filled. It was a who’s who of ranking members who had at one point been committee chairmen, or in the majority, who now wondered out loud whether they were in the permanent minority,” Frank Luntz, who organized the event, told FRONTLINE.

Among them were Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

McCarthy failed to become Speaker of the House, currently Paul Ryan is, after the revolt against John Boehner by the radical right, and Eric Cantor lost his seat to an even more radical republican. But that is not the point. The body of the late Jusrtice is not even buried yet, but we have similar declarations from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Politico reported on this:

The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said, at a time when other elected officials, from Sen. Bernie Sanders to future Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, were releasing statements offering condolences to the justice’s family, which includes 26 grandchildren.

What we are seeing is a process of disfunction that continues to deepen. Norm Orsnetin and Thomas Mann wrote about this in It’s Even Worst Than it Looks:

“Republicans have reason to believe the 2014 midterm elections will strengthen their position in Congress, even if they continue on the oppositionist course they set in the 112th Congress. Midterm elections usually result in losses for the president’s party, and if there is disgruntlement over continued dysfunction, voters may take it out on the perceived party in charge. But Republicans also know that there are risks associated with brinksmanship and obstruction, and they could be setting themselves up for a trouncing in 2016. Nothing concentrates the minds of politicians and their parties so much as the prospect of electoral defeat and political marginalization.

It seems the Republican party in general, and Leader McConnell in particular, are willing to go down this road. They will block, they have announced this, any candidate to the high court that the sitting president offers. It does not matter who this person is. Or what his or her credentials are. This is simply a refusal to admit that the democrat in office has a right to nominate a candidate. This also flies against the Constitutional duty they have to examine each candidate on their merits.

If we were three months away from the general election, given how long it takes to nominate a candidate, perhaps Republicans would have more ground to stand on. But we are not. According to the New York Times, no candidate has taken more than 125 days.

The President has close to a year, 240 days left in office. So at this point doing this, has no positives, except for red meat for their base and the continuation of a process of radicalization for an American party. What is worst is that if the democrats take back the Senate (as some observers expect), and the democrats take the White House, the nominee to the high court will be far more liberal than whoever Obama nominates. That would be irony indeed.

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