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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 08, 2016

 

Chuck Grassley's coup

by Tom Sullivan

President Obama took Senate Republicans to school yesterday in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School where he taught constitutional law for a dozen years. He spoke on the intransigence of Senate Republicans in refusing to give a hearing to his Supreme Court nominee, Illinois native Merrick Garland:

"If you start getting into a situation where the process of appointing judges is so broken, so partisan, that an eminently qualified jurist cannot even get a hearing, then we are going to see the kind of sharp partisan polarization that has come to characterize our electoral politics seeping entirely into the judicial system ..."

"That erodes the institutional integrity of the judicial branch. At that point, people lose confidence in the ability of the courts to fairly adjudicate cases and controversies. And our democracy cannot afford that ..."
Video here.

The Chicago Tribune reports:
Obama described the Republican leadership's attempts to block Garland as "a circumstance in which those in the Senate have decided that placating (their) base is more important than upholding the constitutional and institutional roles in our democracy in a way that is dangerous."
Supreme Court watcher Dahlia Lithwick looks at how the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Sen. Chuck Grassley has stonewalled the process. Citing a recent floor speech, Lithwick takes Grassley to task for how shifty the Iowa Republican has been in how he views the court:
But the extra special hypocrisy sauce here is that Grassley now says that the only way to depoliticize the court would be to appoint nominees who conform their political views to those of the Republican Party. “Justices appointed by Republicans are generally committed to following the law,” he said. And then he argued that the court is too political because Republican nominees don’t act sufficiently politically. “There are justices who frequently vote in a conservative way,” he said. “But some of the justices appointed even by Republicans often don’t vote in a way that advances conservative policy.”

Wait, what? So the problem for Grassley isn’t “political” justices—it’s justices appointed by Republicans who don’t advance “conservative policy” 100 percent of the time. And with that, he revealed his real issue. His Senate floor attack isn’t about depoliticizing the court at all. It’s about calling out Roberts for being insufficiently loyal to the Tea Party agenda when he voted not to strike down Obamacare.

What is really being said here is that there is only one way to interpret the Constitution and that is in the way that “advances conservative policy.” According to Grassley’s thinking, a justice who fails to do that in every single case before him or her is “political” and damaging the court. By this insane logic, the only way to protect the court from politics is to seat nine Chuck Grassleys and go home. And to achieve this type of court he will stop at nothing, including trash talking the entire institution from the Senate floor and threatening the chief justice who will, because he is chief justice, decline to respond.
Grassley, who once claimed the Supreme Court "does not have seats reserved for one philosophy or another" apparently meant, Lithwick writes, There is only a single judicial philosophy and if I don’t get a nominee who shares that philosophy, I’ll happily slander the whole court.

In addressing the issue in Chicago, Obama took the opportunity to begin a debate on the role of the Supreme Court, admitting that politics has an influence on rulings. It is a debate Grassley's aides say he welcomes. Yet he refuses to budge.

Lithwick caustically observes that the proper venue for such a debate is a confirmation hearing, "But Grassley doesn’t want a debate. He wants a coup."

Plutocrats. Their faith in the Constitution is a mile wide and an inch deep. They don't really like the idea of democracy. Democracy means they sometimes lose to people who, let's face it, really are their inferiors. It means sharing power with the wrong people, with the unworthy and the Irresponsibles.