What Democrats Failed to Do on January 3
Yes. I, for one, think of this daily.
by Gaius Publius
It's widely understood, even in Republican circles, that a Supreme Court nomination that should have fallen to a Democratic president was stolen from him by Senate Republicans and will be handed instead to a Republican president, Donald Trump. (In Republican circles, it's not just understood, it's celebrated.)
Democratic Party leadership have four ways they can respond — Not at all, Weakly, Strongly, or Very strongly. "Responding not at all" is not an option, since Senate Democrats (and frankly, institutional Democrats in general) must at least appear to have "seen the Sanders light" and started to stand up for the people — and more frankly, themselves — in this newborn Age of Trump.
Responding with words and not deeds would qualify as "responding weakly." Some actions in opposition and retaliation could be considered "responding strongly," depending on the action, though when you consider that Trump's SCOTUS nominee will serve for life, even the strongest of oppositions — save the full Mitch McConnell response ("oppose everything all the time") — still seems not strong enough by comparison.
Any "very strong" response would necessarily be one that actually "resteals" the nomination back into Democratic Party control and prevents the Trump nomination entirely. Happily, there is such a response — or was. The clock on that response started on January 3 at the very open of the new session of Congress, and ran out just a few minutes after that.
Yet that response would have worked, which is why I'm presenting it to you now. This is your first example of Senate Democrats not choosing a "very strong response" to Republican and Trumpian provocation. For the details, read on.
David Waldman's Plan to Steal Back the Obama's SCOTUS Nomination
This piece was written in December, and it distills thinking by David Waldman (KagroX as was) on how the Democrats can use (manipulate) Senate rules to deny Trump the right to nominate his own candidate for the Supreme Court in place of Merrick Garland. This plan, in other words, puts Merrick Garland on the bench.
I know from personal experience that Waldman knows his Senate rules; he's my goto person when I have questions myself, and I'm not alone in relying on him this way.
From Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars, here's the distillation of Waldman's plan (emphasis in original):
Senate Democrats Have One Shot At Saving SCOTUS - Will They?Kuns appropriately adds:
It is now time for Senate Democrats to take their shot at saving this country from fascists assuming the reins of power in January. It can be done, but it will require them to be courageous and aggressive.
David Waldman (KagroX on Twitter) has outlined how they can confirm Judge Merrick Garland on January 3rd for the few minutes that they will be the majority in the Senate. Waldman is a long-standing expert on Senate procedure and political plays. He was one of the first to call for passage of the ACA via reconciliation in the Senate after Scott Brown was elected.
Here it is, in a nutshell.
On January 3, 2017, Democrats will hold the majority in the Senate for a few minutes, until the newly-elected Senators are sworn in. Biden could convene the Senate in those few minutes and call for a vote. The majority could then suspend the rules and vote in Merrick Garland.
The key here is that VP Biden would have to be willing to convene the Senate and recognize Senator Dick Durbin instead of Mitch McConnell. Durbin moves to re-nominate Garland, and Senate Democrats then vote to confirm him. They will have a quorum for those few minutes.
It's bold. Garland would be confirmed by 34 Democrats and no Republicans. It will certainly enrage Republicans, but they're already enraged and full of hubris about how they're going to screw Democrats anyway, so what do they really have to lose?Is this a legitimate use of Senate rules? Yes. Using the rules within the rules is legitimate (legal) by definition. Would the Republicans pitch a total fit if this happened? Of course, but they do that anytime they lose and some times even when they win.
Not much. It takes courage. It takes a resolve to do what's right for this country, to reclaim the Supreme Court nomination Republicans think they stole from us. It takes backbone.
Here's where the rubber meets the road. We're not talking about "comity" anymore. We're talking about conviction and confirmation.
Should Democrats care about Republican objections? No. But are they bold enough to do this? Of course not. We know that because they didn't do this.
I kind of hate to say this as early as I'm saying it, but "Ladies and gentlemen, these are your Senate Democrats in action." Or inaction, as the case may be. This counts as responding "not at all." Get ready for weak, but ineffective, responses later to show they have a pulse.
Why This Matters
This matters for two reasons, not just one. First, it's a fairly damning, in my opinion, indication of what to look for from the rump Clinton-Obama leadership team in the Senate. Will they act boldly in the Age of Trump, or just appear to? Jury's out, but it doesn't look promising.
And second, as Clinton, Obama and every institutional Democrat with a voice and a microphone reminded us constantly during the campaign — The Supreme Court Matters. But enough to do anything about, or or anything effective? Apparently not, despite the campaign season hysterics.
Remember the rule: The role of money in politics is to neuter Democrats and enable Republicans. I'm afraid we're about to see a string of examples of this, starting with the one just cited.