Team WIN THE MORNING details President Obama's "charm offensive" as he's personally making the rounds to visit key Republicans in the Senate, trying to work them into allowing a vote on Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. The problem is of course it's not working in the least.
Politico queried three dozen Senate Republicans and found eight who have spoken directly with Obama about the Supreme Court vacancy and a ninth who had discussed the issue with Vice President Joe Biden, who has also been working the phones with GOP senators.
Most of Obama’s appeals have concentrated on the epicenter of the Garland blockade, the Senate Judiciary Committee, all of whose 11 Republican members signed a vow to not move his nomination this year.
The president made two calls to Flake — once before Garland was named and again shortly afterward. In the first conversation, Obama told the Arizona Republican that he would nominate a centrist candidate, perhaps someone whose name had already been out there.
“I’m going to play it straight. I’m not looking to make a political point,” Obama told Flake, according to the senator, who generally believes a president should be given deference on his nominees.
Once Garland was chosen, Obama called Flake back and told him: I did what I said I’d do.
Flake was pleased. But it was still a no-go on Garland’s nomination — at least before November.
“I’ve said in a lame duck, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Flake added.
A day or two before Garland was nominated, Obama dialed Graham, the South Carolina Republican who helped confirm his other two Supreme Court nominees. But this time was different, Graham reasoned. Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor came before Senate Democrats deployed the “nuclear option” in 2013 to lower the filibuster threshold for nearly all nominations.
“I told him that changing the rules the way y’all guys did made it harder for a guy like me to be sympathetic to something outside the normal,” Graham said in recalling his conversation. “He said one of the reasons he’s calling is because I’ve tried to be balanced in my view. And I said ‘Mr. President, when you were in the Senate, if I used your standards, you would be in trouble.’”
Nevertheless, the White House won a small victory with Graham last week when the senator reversed his initial opposition to meeting with Garland, agreeing to meet with the nominee in the coming weeks. But the president hasn’t had similar luck so far with other Judiciary Committee members.
President Obama is again trying to win the fight here by playing the game above-board, when the Republicans have already vowed not to lift a finger on Garland's nomination until after the election.
But frankly, there's little upside in the Republicans actually doing their job after all, they've been rewarded with Senate control for six years of obstruction, two more isn't going to make too much of a difference. At the very least, Senate control does slide over to the Democrats in 2017, but not by more than a few Senators, a margin that will almost certainly be erased in another depressingly low-turnout 2018 mid-term.
I foresee a more reasonable climate after the election in the lame duck session, but a lot can happen between now and then.
Meanwhile, President Obama will keep trying, and the GOP will keep doing nothing.