With both Mitt Romney and Thom Tillis committing to confirm Trump's pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- and I remind you Trump has not made his decision yet and they are still pledging to vote for Trump's nominee unseen -- Trump has the votes to confirm during the election, an unprecedented assault on our country.
So what the hell do Democrats plan to do about it? Former Harry Reid staffer Adam Jentleson offeres some ideas.
There is no silver bullet available to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, to block the nominee. Distraught Democrats should understand that senators’ options are limited, but Democratic senators should understand the depth of voters’ desire to see their senators do everything possible to stop Mr. Trump from replacing R.B.G. This is an illegitimate process, and that is how Democrats should approach it. A core function of the Senate is to “advise and consent” on federal court nominees. Jamming a Supreme Court nominee through in direct contradiction of Republican senators’ pledges not to do so, with votes already being cast in the election, will be a clear abdication of any reasonable claim to the institution’s constitutional responsibility.
There are a range of tools available to Democrats to apply constant pressure. The Senate operates on what are called “unanimous consent” agreements, or U.C.s — pacts that set the daily schedule and the terms of conduct for all business. As the name suggests, every senator has to agree to a U.C. If a single senator objects, the U.C. is blocked. Democrats can bring the business of the Senate to a halt by systematically denying U.C. agreements. This simply requires stationing one senator on the floor at all times — senators can rotate every few hours, they just need to be physically present on the floor to say, “I object,” anytime Republicans try to pass a U.C.
Denying U.C.s will gum up the works in countless ways, one of which will be to deny committees the ability to meet more than two hours after the Senate convenes. This applies to the Judiciary Committee, where any confirmation hearings would be held. Republicans will still be able to schedule them, but it will make the process arduous and abnormal.
Absent U.C.s, the Senate needs a quorum of 51 senators to be present to conduct business. Senate Democrats should force Republicans to produce quorums on their own. Republicans control 53 seats, but bringing 51 senators to the floor every time they need to conduct business is a major challenge. Notably, Republicans have more incumbent senators up for re-election than Democrats do, and every day they have to spend in Washington is a lost day of campaigning. It takes only one senator to do this: By noting the absence of a quorum, a Democratic senator can put the Senate into a state of suspended animation called a “quorum call” until 51 senators arrive on the floor.
Democrats can also boycott the confirmation hearings. The hearings are unlikely to influence the outcome. If the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh did not change any votes, neither will these hearings. Attending confers legitimacy, and refusing to attend will send a powerful statement that they deem the process and the nominee illegitimate.
Together, these tactics will hang an asterisk around President Trump’s nominee. Democratic senators should keep in mind that if they participate in the process, even aggressively, history will record it as a “contentious” confirmation process, a common occurrence. Boycotting the process and disrupting Senate business, on the other hand, will brand it as fundamentally different from anything that has come before.
This is the same weak sauce offered before with Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, ultimately it went nowhere. But there's more this time.
This brings us to the most important step: Democrats should commit to the structural reforms necessary to undo the damage Republicans have wrought. Republicans were able to block Judge Merrick Garland and install a conservative majority on the Supreme Court despite representing less than half of the population. The Senate overrepresents white conservatives, while minority voters are more underrepresented than at any time since 1870. A white conservative minority imposing its will on a diverse majority — in part through federal judges serving lifetime appointments — is a fundamentally unhealthy dynamic for our democracy.
If Democrats win the White House and the Senate in November, they can pass reforms to rebalance our democracy through simple majority votes. The only thing standing in the way will be the filibuster — a procedural mutation that was not a part of the original Senate and that has been manipulated in recent decades to transform the Senate from the framers’ vision of a majority-rule institution into one where most business requires 60 votes (or a “supermajority”) to pass. There are many good reasons to get rid of the filibuster, but Republicans jamming through a nominee should motivate any hesitant Democrats to commit to eliminating it if they take back power.
Without the filibuster, reforms can be passed by simple majority votes, as the framers intended. Democrats should commit to reforming the Supreme Court: They can add seats to the court; apply age or term limits; or pass any of a range of credible proposals. Congress has the prerogative to change the court, including its size, which it has done six times since the founding.
Democrats should also reform the Senate so it better represents the nation. They can start by inviting territories bound by federal law but lacking voting representation in Congress to become states. The District of Columbia has roughly a similar or greater population as Wyoming or North Dakota, while Puerto Rico has more people than 20 states. Both deserve to become states if they so choose.
Committing to these changes now will enable Democrats to move quickly if they take back power.
It's a bold move, and Democrats will have to absolutely and fully committ and follow through for this to happen, but it's the only shot we have.
The alternative is 1952 America, Jim Crow, and white supremacy as the law of the land, based on Christian conservative bigotry being used to justify discrimination of everyone who isn't white, male, and straight.
But there are issues right now, today. With Justice Ginsberg's body not even cold yet, the GOP is already asking the Supreme Court to block voting by mail in Pennsylvania this week.
In a sign of how critical Pennsylvania is to the Republican Party’s election litigation strategy, the state GOP wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review a state case that opened up absentee voting, while the Trump campaign is seeking to revive a federal lawsuit targeting Pennsylvania’s plans for pandemic voting.
The indication Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to get involved in the state court case marks the first time the high court’s intervention will be sought since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats and Republicans have been engaged in a multi-front court battle over several aspects of Pennsylvania’s absentee voting process.
Last week, in a lawsuit brought by Democrats, the state Supreme Court okayed Pennsylvania’s plans to set up ballot drop boxes and it upheld the state’s requirement that poll watchers reside in the county they are assigned to. It also ruled that election officials should count ballots that arrive in the three days after the election.
The Pennsylvania GOP as well as the Republican leaders of its legislature indicated on Tuesday that it would appeal that decision — and particularly its extension for the receipt deadline for absentee ballots — to the U.S. Supreme Court. The notice came in requests to the state Supreme Court that it put its opinion on hold while U.S. Supreme Court review is sought.
All indications now are that the PA GOP will get a ruling in their favor, one that will be repeated nationally in order to disenfranchise millions of mail ballots.
And we're just getting started on the massive voter suppression now available to the GOP in the next six weeks.