[COMMENTARY]: Mitch McConnell Is The Slimiest Hypocrite in American History
In 2016, 236 days before that year’s presidential election, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly, triggering a partisan political war that few ever envisioned and that has raged throughout Donald Trump’s presidency.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to hold hearings, let alone a confirmation vote, for then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland.
McConnell’s false rationalization was that Obama was making a politically-motivated choice and since 2016 was an election year, the process should wait until after the voters had their say.
“It seems clear President Obama made this nomination not, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” McConnell said.
“I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president,” McConnell said.
“The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be,” McConnell said.
Trump won the election but lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by a substantial margin, leaving him without a mandate from the American people, which in any just or rational world would fall short of McConnell’s standard.
Unfortunately, that is not reality. The Electoral College chooses presidents, not a majority of voters, and Trump won it 304-227 (77,000 votes in three reliably blue states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – made the difference).
Scalia’s seat remained empty for more than 400 days until the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Donald trump 11 days after he was inaugurated.
Today, a few sad, short hours after the announcement that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died following a long battle with cancer, McConnell wasted no time reminding all of us what a power-hungry disgrace he is to the Senate and to the United States.
In a statement that Clinton succinctly described on The Rachel Maddow Show Friday night as “monumental hypocrisy,” McConnell wasted no time doing what everyone knew was eventually coming – he vowed to hold a vote on whoever Trump picks to fill the seat that 87-year-old liberal icon graced for 26 years.
The Senate and the nation mourn the sudden passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life.
Sure you do, Moscow.
Justice Ginsburg overcame one personal challenge and professional barrier after another. She climbed from a modest Brooklyn upbringing to a seat on our nation’s highest court and into the pages of American history. Justice Ginsburg was thoroughly dedicated to the legal profession and to her 27 years of service on the Supreme Court. Her intelligence and determination earned her respect and admiration throughout the legal world, and indeed throughout the entire nation, which now grieves alongside her family, friends, and colleagues.
McConnell then tried to re-write history. In 2016, he made it very clear with his “this president” phrasing that his only motivation was to deny Obama his constitutional duty. It was always personal. He said nothing about the people choosing a president of a different political party. Nay, it was just another way to screw Obama and give himself more unwarranted power:
In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.
By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise.
There existed, and still exists, no constitutional barrier standing in the Senate’s way – only McConnell and a few dozen hopelessly sycophantic Republican Senators who, for whatever reason, have pledged unbreakable allegiances to Trump.
Worst of all, there is next to nothing Senate Democrats can do to stop McConnell from making good on his promise:
President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.
That is not how you show respect for the powerhouse that was Notorious RBG.
Granted, McConnell did not specify when this vote would happen, and at least four Republicans – all of whom voted to acquit Trump when he was impeached – have already said they will not participate in a vote six weeks before November’s election.
Confirmation of a new Justice only requires a 51-vote majority. As of now, McConnell does not have the votes.
There are reasonable concerns among Republicans that if the Senate does not hold a vote before November 3, their voters – many of whom are tired of Trump but prefer a GOP-led Senate – will sit out the election out of spite. Even if the Senate does hold vote, and Trump’s nominee fails, Trump could just pick someone else during whichever recess best fits his agenda and adheres to the recess appointment rules – which the outcome of the election will determine.
The Senate will leave Washington (not including weekends) from September 28-29, October 10-November 8, November 14-29, and December 19-31.
The 2021 schedule will be determined after the election by whomever controls the chamber.
Democrats are slightly favored to regain a majority, which means that McConnell has some incentive to do this sooner rather than later, because he too is facing a tough reelection battle. Or there could be a 50-50 tie, which gives the vice president the deciding vote. As well, Trump is taking a shellacking in the polls, which are showing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, with a consistent lead.
Trump, however, has a loophole he can exploit – the power of recess appointments granted to him under Article II of the Constitution – and he will have a few chances before and after the election to use it.
Article II, Section III states:
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Trump could, in theory, pick whoever he wanted while the Senate is away, who would then serve until the Senate is in session and able to confirm or reject them. What would matter most is during which recess he does it, and the options are complex.
There is a decent chance Trump could eke out another victory with an even bigger popular vote loss than in 2016. In the case of a legitimate Trump victory, then there is no question he has the right to make a nomination. But what happens if the election is close? Or contested? Or Trump simply refuses to concede?
We got a taste of this in 2000 when the conservative-leaning Supreme Court halted vote-couting in perennially messy Florida, handing George W. Bush the Sunshine State’s 25 Electoral College votes and therefore the presidency. The margin in Florida was 537 votes. Bush took the Electoral College 271-266 over Democrat Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote.
The deciding vote in Bush v. Gore was cast by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Trump replaced in 2018 with Brett Kavanaugh, who once served as a clerk for Kennedy. That fight was a bitter, national embarrassment because Kavanaugh was facing credible accusations of rape and because Kavanaugh tantrumed his way through the hearings like a creepy, drunk frat boy. The Senate confirmed him anyway.
Trump recently released a list of potentials should he get another appointment. Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Tom Cotton (AR) are inexplicably among them. Cruz has been tweeting in a frenzy about the importance of holding a vote as soon as possible. Shocker.
Cotton, meanwhile, tweeted that he was relieved that RBG “is at peace.” Classy, coming from a guy who defended slavery in July.
I extend my condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for their loss. She dedicated her life to public service, and now she is at peace.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 19, 2020
Trump also offered some condolences but it is no secret that the mushroom is blooming.
Statement from the President on the Passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/N2YkGVWLoF
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
There are myriad constitutional battles likely to occur between now and January 20, when Trump will either retake the oath of office or be forcibly dragged out of the White House. Or we could see a repeat of 2000, except on steriods, in some twisted scenario in which the Court permits Trump to stay in power. The prospect of a 4-4 ruling on some cockamamie, desperate, extra-constitutional scheme Trump and the GOP hatch to subvert democracy gives McConnell even more of a reason to hold a vote.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 200,000 Americans thanks to Trump’s conscious, homicidal negligence and pathological dishonesty, has rendered in-person voting risky or impossible, and the Trump Administration has done everything they can do cripple the United States Postal Service’s ability to manage mail-in voting.
There is no bottom to how low Republicans, especially McConnell, will sink to retain power. As it stands, even with a Court with eight Justices, Republicans still hold an advantage. Six Justices are solidly conservative. Four were appointed by two presidents who lost the popular vote.
The next month-and-a-half is going to test the resilience of our institutions and our collective strength to keep our society intact.
Every single eligible voter needs to cast a ballot on or before November 3. Vote like your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness depends on it – because they do.
RBG’s dying wish, which she shared with her granddaughter Clara a few days ago, was “that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Please do not let her down.