Antonin Scalia. Photo by Stephen Masker on Flickr
Four ‘vulnerable’ Senators* have announced that they will not support the Democrats in giving Barack Obama another bite at the Supreme Court apple: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. This has… alarmed the Democrats, somewhat. Oh, sure, they’re pretending that all of this means that those four Senators are going down, down, down man! And so will several dozen more! – but the reality is that the GOP leadership has called a play that the Democrats didn’t expect, and the GOP Senate caucus has signaled that that play will be backed. Which is a problem for the Democrats, because their base really, really wants a win here, and they can’t get one unless the GOP caves. Which, again, the GOP doesn’t appear about to do.
It would appear, in fact, that right now with these four in place Sen Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has enough votes to just simply… not care if Barack Obama is upset that Mitch McConnell has decided to assert his absolutely Constitutional Article III authority. Which is really the sticking point, here. The Senate can tell the President to [expletive deleted] off and up a rope. The Senate (in the person of Senator Harry Reid) frankly should have told the President to [expletive deleted] off, and up a rope roughly four years ago, after Obama’s hi-jinks managed in 2010 to gut-shoot the Democrat party on a state and local level that would not be duplicated until… 2014. Which is why McConnell gets to do it, instead.
But why is this happening? Oh, that’s easy! It’s happening because the GOP Senate caucus knows that saying ‘no’ is not a terrible risk for them – Barack Obama does have a negative approval rating, after all – but that saying ‘yes’ will bring down the Wrath of the Base upon them. A Wrath that will not abate after the elections. So… best to take the hint, surely?
PS: If you want to know what’s going to happen, watch Mark Kirk. He’s in a genuine bind on this one, being a Senator from Illinois and all that, and while Mitch McConnell will not throw away Senate control the Senate Majority Leader will probably be amenable to letting Kirk get a little cover. Not a Supreme Court confirmation, no. Not even a vote. But Kirk has probably been told that he can sound all bipartisan and suchlike about the process and there’ll be no hard feelings.
And I’ll be honest: I’d sign off on a lot worse than a moderate Senator making moderate noises that don’t actually change the result in order to keep that Senate seat. Because when we don’t keep the Senate, we get Justices like Kagan and Sotomayor.
*Vulnerable in scare quotes because at least two of those Senators are not ‘vulnerable’ at all – and no, I’m not going to say which two. Let it be a nasty surprise to the Democrats, shall we?