Friday, February 19, 2016

Has McConnell Inadvertently Boxed The Senate Republicans In On A Scalia Replacement?


Is Miss McConnell losing his touch? Scalia's corpse wasn't even cold yet-- and the GOP conspiracy theories about his death barely formed-- when he screwed up big time by announcing that President Obama would be barred by the Senate from appointing a replacement to the Supreme Court. Any replacement. That's not constitutional and it isn't even popular, except in the fever swamps of GOP extremism. Mainstream Republican senators have already started inching away from the crazy pronouncement, especially ones who are up for reelection in Novemberand want to appear vaguely non-obstructionist.

GOP-leaning polling firm, Rasmussen, polled the question of whether or not Obama should replace Scalia. The survey included just 3 questions:
Should President Obama put off naming a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died Saturday and let the next president make that nomination?

Should the U.S. Senate reject or refuse to consider any Supreme Court nomination made by Obama to allow the next president to choose that nominee?

How likely is that the Senate will approve the nomination of any candidate President Obama names to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court?
Apparently McConnell's crackpot statement didn't go over. The majority of Americans say Obama should nominate a replacement (43% disagree). An even bigger majority of Americans say McConnell as his obstructionist Senate Republicans should not reject or refuse to consider the nomination (35% agree with the Republican extremists that no matter the quality of the candidate, he or she should be blocked). Unfortunately most Americans feel that the Senate Republicans will block the nominee and 69% believe the GOP will make sure no Obama nominee is approved.

And last night Fox released another poll, even more damaging to McConnell and his obstructionist ilk. This one shows that 62% of Americans want Obama and the Senate to fill the Scalia vacancy now. Only 34%-- basically the hard-core GOP/racist base-- say Obama should not be allowed to make another Supreme Court nomination.

But most survey takers aren't nearly as insightful as the Washington Post's Gerg Sargent, who asserts Miss McConnell has led his crackpot caucus in a trap of their own making. He sites another national poll, this one from CBS News, that has some ominous data for Republicans to look at, namely that "Republican primary voters are split between Donald Trump (25 percent) and Ted Cruz (25 percent) over who is most trusted to make appointments to the Supreme Court. Moderates strongly favor Trump (27 percent), while conservatives favor Cruz, and those who consider themselves very conservative chose Cruz (38 percent) over Trump (19 percent)." And he then reports that senior Republicans are in the process of deciding that their best political move is not to give Obama’s nomination any consideration at all, "that denying a hearing to Obama’s choice would allow them to better make the case that voters should have a say in the next Supreme Court justice-- not members of the Senate and a lame-duck president. If Republicans held confirmation proceedings, several Republicans told CNN, that argument would be badly muddied. Moreover, they risk giving Obama’s choice an opportunity to detail his or her life story and legal qualifications, and they’d rather stop the nominee before giving the White House and Senate Democrats a chance to build momentum."
Perfect: If the American people get real exposure to Obama’s nominee, it might make it harder for us to vote No, so better not to allow any exposure at all! Now, as I noted yesterday, Republicans are under no obligation to consider and vote on Obama’s nominee. This is a political fight that will turn on perceived norms. The only way Democrats can force Republicans to cave here is by successfully portraying the GOP refusal to consider any nominee as so deeply unreasonable and dysfunctional that Republicans decide they’re sustaining too much damage among swing voters to continue holding out.

But both the new CBS poll and the new NBC poll show the American people are almost exactly split on this question right now. Both find that more than eighty percent of Republicans don’t think Obama should get to choose Scalia’s replacement. Meanwhile, conservative talk radio hosts are already defining any consideration of Obama’s nominee as surrender. So you’d think that if Republicans allow hearings, whether or not they actually intend to evaluate Obama’s pick on the substance, the spectacle itself would only help Trump and/or Cruz, which senior Republicans don’t want to do.

Additionally, per CNN’s reporting above, the problem for Republicans is also that, if they do go through the motions of giving Obama’s choice a hearing, it will allow the voters to learn more about that person, which could risk requiring them to oppose someone the public comes to support. (Backing Obama’s nominee is apparently a self-evident impossibility.) So the only way out might be to do nothing. The question will then be whether Democrats can extract serious, lasting political pain from it.
So that is at oddds with the theory that McConnell and the Senate Republicans were whining and wailing to get Obama to pick a business-friendly moderate and not a real progressive. The thing is, Obama always picks business-friendly moderates and his immediate (albeit so far not publicly announced) choice was Sri Srinivasan, a centrist who progressives aren't celebrating-- and a lot more to GOP liking than anything Bernie-- and a Democratic-controlled Senate-- will come up with in 2017. If you'd like to help replace McConnell as Majority Leader of the Senate, help elect more progressive Democrats-- here are the 4 best running this year, no conservatives, no corrupt Schumercrats, just the best candidates Team Blue has for 2016.

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