The number of Republican senators up for re-election and who do not want to go down with the burning wreck of the USS Donald J Trump is starting to become a nice little crowd now.
Senate Republicans and the White House are signaling a tentative point of agreement on a key part of President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination process: the nominee questionnaire.
The statements regarding the questionnaire are part of the careful maneuvering on the issue by all sides in this tense and unusual Supreme Court nomination process for D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
Traditionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee sends a personalized questionnaire for Supreme Court nominees to the White House. This time, the White House has not received one from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democratic member of the committee.
Nonetheless, on Friday evening, Grassley’s spokesperson, Beth Levine, told BuzzFeed News that the Republicans “assume the administration will fill out the standard questionnaire submitted for judicial nominations.”
Levine reiterated, however, the Republican leadership’s position that “a majority of the Senate has made clear that the American people should have an opportunity to weigh in on this vacancy.”
The White House reacted to the statement with cautious optimism.
“It appears that Chairman Grassley is prepared to accept a questionnaire from Judge Garland,” White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine told BuzzFeed News on Saturday. “We are heartened by this development and look forward to the Committee making this request directly to the nominee as well as to the White House, as is standard practice.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire is a critical part of the process for those nominated for a federal judgeship. The questions focus on the basics, like education and employment history, but also seek detailed information on speeches and writings of the nominee, as well as information about the nominee’s experience as a practicing lawyer and a complete recounting of the decisions of nominees who already are lower-court judges.
Hoffine said Garland “is prepared to provide all relevant information, consistent with standard practice, in short order.”
In front of the cameras, Republicans are screaming about "no hearings" and "let the people decide in November." Here in reality, the nomination process is going forward. Slowly, but it's going forward. Republican senators figure they'll start getting credit for basic courtesy to President Obama, and frankly that bar has been set deep into the floor for years now. Perhaps the notion that the GOP is expected to lose control of the Senate with a Trump nomination has something to do with it.
But that's how this game works these days, and nobody plays it better than Obama.