Ramesh Ponnuru likes to pretend to be the conservative adult in the room. He regularly criticizes the Tea Party and the far right wing of conservatism for its extremism and embrace of falsehoods and unhinged rhetoric. And then he writes this inane column entitled “Republicans Shouldn’t Let Obama Pack the Courts.” And he lies about history in the process:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he intends to force a vote this week on the nomination of Cornelia Pillard to the court. Pillard’s is one of three nominations Republicans are opposing. They say the Democrats are trying to pack the court. The Democrats say they’re just trying to fill vacancies, and argue that the Republicans’ behavior is so abusive they’ll restrict the filibuster if it continues.
Republicans should remember what happened the last time we had such a fight, and they shouldn’t give in.
Starting in 2003, the Democratic minority embarked on an unprecedented series of filibusters to stop President George W. Bush’s appointments to appeals courts. Back then, Republicans said there was a crisis of judicial vacancies needing to be filled. Democrats replied that the courts, especially the D.C. Circuit, were underworked and that the Republicans were trying to pack the courts with like-minded judges. Now the sides are reversed, and so are the talking points.
No they aren’t. And Ponnuru undoubtedly knows it. There’s one very obvious difference that he is covering over here. The Democrats in 2003 filibustered a small number of Bush nominees on specific grounds, arguing that they were too extreme (and with judges like Janice Rogers Brown, one of the ones they tried to filibuster, they had a point). The Republicans are trying to prevent the president from appointing any judges to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, regardless of their qualifications or their views. Those are not even remotely the same thing.
The headline alone tells you how ridiculous it. We know what court packing is. It’s when a president proposes to significantly expand the number of judges on a court so they get to nominate lots of new judges and take over as a majority on the court. Obama is proposing nothing of the sort. In fact, he is only proposing to do the job that the Constitution gives him, making nominations to fill vacancies on the federal courts. And the Republicans are arguing that he should not be able to do that. And that’s just plain moronic. And Ponnuru almost certainly knows that.