Mitch McConnell knows that if he can place Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, his party can lose the presidential election, but still win the GOP’s long-term battle to shift policy to the hard right. Barrett would create a 6-3 court majority that is archconservative on social issues and a corporate rubber stamp on economic issues — and that majority could permanently alter American jurisprudence.
That’s why McConnell on Friday made clear that he is not deterred, even by a deadly pandemic.
Even though there is a coronavirus outbreak in the US Senate and the White House, and even though Barrett’s nomination announcement may have been a super-spreader event, Republicans are still refusing to delay the confirmation hearings. Indeed, even though current Senate rules do not permit remote voting and require senators’ physical presence in a potential COVID hot zone in order to achieve a required Senate quorum, McConnell seems determined to force a confirmation vote in that hot zone.
This is why this new op-ed in the New York Daily News is so important: It reviews how Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and every other Democrat in Congress can stall Barrett’s nomination.
To be clear: this is not just a Senate fight — House Democrats, who are in that chamber’s majority, have a huge role to play, too.
What Would McConnell Do?
Written by Demand Progress executive director David Segal and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, the op-ed lays out various tactics that can be employed.
For more than a week, Segal, Teachout and I have been waived off by liberals whose culture of learned helplessness has led them to insist that there is no point in trying to delay Trump’s Supreme Court pick. Circumstances have obviously changed, which only underscores the point that fighting these battles is always worth it, because you never know what might happen.
The new oped from Segal and Teachout — along with our ongoing reporting — shows why you shouldn’t believe Democrats who always insist they are powerless.
“Premature assertions of hopelessness are endemic to establishment Democratic politicians,” Segal and Teachout write. “This even passes for savvy: If nothing ever happens, because you convince yourself nothing can be done, then you’re never wrong.”
But Democratic naysayers like Sens. Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse are indeed wrong — Segal and Teachout write that they consulted with “a dozen experts who told us the insiders were too pessimistic, and circulated a memo with 19 different ideas” of what both the Senate and House could do to stall the nomination.
And yet, on Thursday the New York Times reported that “Democrats have opted against using parliamentary tactics to grind the Senate to a complete halt to try to delay a confirmation vote until after the election on November 3, as some progressive groups have demanded.”
To know that this is a preemptive and unnecessary surrender, just ask yourself: If Republicans were in the minority, what would McConnell do?
Segal and Teachout offer the answer in their oped. They make clear exactly why Democrats must fight as hard as they can and refuse to preemptively surrender — and why Democratic activists must demand action from their senators and representatives in Congress:
(Schumer) should seek guidance from a counterintuitive source, one frequently standing just a few feet away: He should do whatever Mitch McConnell would do. We all know that if the roles were reversed, McConnell would do all in his power to whip the Republican Conference into line and slow things down…
A postponement of just a few weeks — until after Election Day — might stop the nomination altogether. If Mark Kelly defeats Martha McSally (R-Az.) in the race to fill the remainder of John McCain’s term, then he will be seated right away. Two Republican senators have already indicated they oppose the current hasty process, so just one more would need to defect in order to get Republicans to wait until after inauguration to move forward.
A modest deferral could mean that Joe Biden would pick the next Supreme Court justice, and instead of having the court fall into ironclad control by the far-right, we could have a more balanced court.
“Democrats Need To Literally Shut The Senate Down”
Activists in Rhode Island are providing a blueprint for other states to pressure their Democratic lawmakers to use their procedural powers to try to stall the nomination.
Days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Rhode Island’s Democratic Sen. Whitehouse began retreating from a confirmation fight. Brushing off all the potential delaying strategies that McConnell would use if he were in the minority, Whitehouse told a local television station: “If there were a triple secret procedural strategy that would allow us to (stop a nominee), I think we probably would have done it on Gorsuch.”
Whitehouse added: “We also know that if we’re going to take back the Senate in a race in which decency and normalcy versus Trump’s behavior is very much an issue, and Trump is desperate to try to make Democrats look as badly behaved and dangerous and odd and extreme as possible, we want to be very careful about playing into that narrative.”
“This is not a test. Everything we hold dear is on the chopping block, and we are counting on our Senators to do whatever it takes to block an illegitimate seizure of our courts by a GOP minority that hasn’t won a democratic majority in years,” former Rhode Island state Rep. Aaron Regunberg said at the rally. “Democrats need to literally shut the Senate down.”
That’s exactly what McConnell would try to do if he were in the situation — and it’s exactly what Democrats can try to do now if they truly do not want a 6-3 conservative court for the rest of our lives.