There are plenty of reasons why the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch should be blocked. But rising to the top of the list is the fact that the very legitimacy of the president who nominated him is currently being investigated.
At the end of January 1973, a month into Richard Nixon's second term in office, two officials of his re-election committee (CREEP) were found guilty of conspiracy, burglary and bugging the Democratic Party’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex. Others had already pleaded guilty. A week later, in early February, the Senate established a Select Committee to investigate what had become a full-blown scandal. Nixon's top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman resigned in April, and the Senate's televised hearings began in May. The rest is history.
There would not be a Supreme Court vacancy during Nixon's truncated second term and so the issue of confirming a Supreme Court justice during this constitutional crisis never came up. But imagine if it had. Do you think there is even the remotest possibility that the Senate would have simply gone ahead and held confirmation hearings as if there weren't "a cancer on the presidency," as Nixon's former counsel John Dean put it?
Here we are just a couple of months into Tweetledrumpf's™ term, and with each passing day the malignancy that plagues his presidency continues to metastasize. The list of his campaign officials that had contact with Russia while Russia was actively interfering with the election continues to grow, as does the administration's attempts to dissemble and distract.
We already have had one senior official -- the National Security Advisor -- resign, and another -- the Attorney General -- recuse himself (and should resign) for lying about their communications with Moscow. The facts continue to pile up that suggest Trump's campaign actively colluded with Russia or at least gave its blessing. Either way, this is a political scandal that, as Dan Rather argued last month, may ultimately rival Watergate:
Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.Indeed, Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee, stated today: "This is as big if not bigger than Watergate”-- the committee has “circumstantial evidence of an entire web that Putin put in place ensnaring many of the people who now have very respected positions within the U.S. cabinet.”
And so it is more imperative than ever that the hearings be postponed and that Democrats use every procedural weapon in their arsenal to fight, delay, block, obstruct and oppose Trump's nominee to replace the late Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.
They must do this not only because Republicans, by refusing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama's mainstream-to-a-fault nomination of Merrick Garland, stole a Supreme Court vacancy to which they are not entitled -- although ensuring that Republicans are not rewarded for their unprecedented obstruction would also be compelling reason enough. (See Republicans Can Go Bork Themselves)
They must do this not only because Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch, according to The New York Times and various legal analysts, is similar but actually to the right of Justice Scalia in terms of judicial philosophy, putting him well outside the mainstream -- although ensuring the Supreme Court doesn't cement another right wing majority for a generation or two would be compelling reason enough. (See Filibuster or Bust)
They also must do this because, as Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West put it, "if the Trump victory were even somewhat abetted by shady ties to the Russians, everything he does as president is of questionable legitimacy." And the process for appointing a Supreme Court justice who has the potential to change the balance of the Court -- and impact fundamental rights and remedies -- for decades should not be undertaken in the midst of what is quickly becoming a constitutional crisis. Indeed, as Lithwick/West continue, "once a Supreme Court appointment is done, it cannot be undone. And the damage won’t stop with Trump’s judicial nominee: Having one justice serve under a cloud of doubt also threatens to harm the entire court." And so, "until the presidency is no longer under a cloud, there can be no hearings, and there can be no votes."