Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Senator Leahy Can Go Fuck Himself

Patrick Leahy of Vermont is the longest serving Democratic Senator.  His liberal bona fides are beyond dispute.  Throughout his tenure he has personified decency, thoughtfulness and honor.  His rectitude was on full display as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the Obama Administration.  There he clung to the Senate's norms and traditions in the face of unprecedented obstruction by the Republicans who sought to thwart Obama's judicial nominations regardless of their qualifications.  It did not shake the stalwart Leahy from his deep and abiding principles that Republicans shamelessly used whatever tools they could to ensure as many judicial vacancies as possible remained open for the next Republican president to fill with right wing judges.  

And so, even when it was blatantly obvious that Republicans were abusing the time-honored blue slip tradition -- where a senator could block the nomination of a judge from his or her home state -- Leahy could not be deterred from continuing to honor the tradition.  And because he refused to dispel with this informal rule, 18 of Obama's nominations, including 6 for the Courts of Appeal, never made it to the Committee -- and many other judges from red states were not even nominated because of the perceived futility in getting past the Republican Senators.  Once Republicans regained their majority in the Senate, they not only slowed down the nomination process to a crawl, they stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to hold hearings on Obama's nomination, Merrick Garland. 

We all know what happened next.  Trump somehow became president and the Republicans kept their majority in the Senate.  Neil Gorsuch, not Merrick Garland, became the next Supreme Court Justice after Republicans blew up another time-honored tradition, the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.  (The Democrats were compelled to get rid of the filibuster for non-Supreme Court nominees earlier after Republicans, violating an agreement not to filibuster judges except in extraordinary circumstances, sought to prevent a Democratic majority on the D.C. Circuit). 

And now all those federal court vacancies are in the process of being filled, and it isn't pretty.  As Charles Pierce reminds us, Trump "subcontracted the job of picking judges to the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and various other wingnut intellectual chop shops" and, accordingly, we have been presented with an atrocious cast of nominees for lifetime appointments that are anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-civil rights, anti-regulation, anti-labor.  I've written about some of these gems before.  Here's another one:  Jeff Mateer, nominated to a Texas district court, does not believe that the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, does believe that transgender children are part of Satan's plan, and is afraid that same-sex marriage is a slippery slope that will lead people to marry trees and pets.

Yet Democrats, for the most part, continue to go along with business as usual.  They refuse to use whatever procedural tools are available to the minority (admittedly, there aren't many) to slow down a judicial process that has become completely tainted by Republican bad faith.  The Republicans fucking stole a Supreme Court seat.  They ran out the clock on Obama's other nominees.  Oh, and the President is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power to get elected.  Democrats should be throwing sand in the gears at every conceivable opportunity to thwart every single judicial nominee -- even if they weren't a horrid bunch of right wing extremists. 

At least Democratic Senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon refused to return blue slips for judges nominated to the Eighth and Ninth Circuit, respectively.  Predictably this has led Sentate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican hypocrites to call for ending the hallowed blue slip tradition that they relied on when they were in the minority.  And while Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley has so far resisted, it is just a matter of time before he gives in and does away with any obstacle to Republican stacking of the federal courts -- despite the fact that the ever-honorable Senator Leahy "trusts" Grassley to keep his word to respect the blue slip tradition. 

But Republicans may not need to do away with blue slips when they have spineless Democrats returning them. In fact, seven Democrats have so far returned blue slips, allowing Trump's nominations -- nominations that are being filled only because Republicans kept the vacancies open during the Obama Administration -- to go forward.  

In 2004, Dick Cheney infamously told Leahy to go fuck himself, when Leahy questioned the then-Vice President about Halliburton's activities in Iraq.  This breach of protocol was all the more shocking because of Leahy's stature.  It was as if Cheney was profaning the Congress itself.

Patrick Leahy and his unwavering belief in the integrity of our political process is emblematic of a Democratic Party that goes about the business of governing while the government is controlled by an ignorant, corrupt and unstable monster enabled by a cynical and uncompromising political party that is engaged in an all out war for the soul of the Country.  Those Democrats who to continue to acquiesce to conventional norms and operate as if this were a normal state of affairs can go fuck themselves.


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