For some time now, the Republican party has taken the position that if they cannot win the presidency, they will basically bring government to a halt. This was explicitly stated by senate majority leader Mitch McConnell when he vowed in 2009 to use that strategy to make Barack Obama a one-term president. That particular goal of course failed but the idea of obstructionism has persisted.
The refusal to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland for a position on the US Supreme Court was another example. While they had hopes of winning the election in November, they said that the new president should have the opportunity to nominate justice Scalia’s replacement because that would more accurately represent the ‘will of the people’. (Note: Whenever politicians refer to the will of the people, you should be on your guard.) Now that Hillary Clinton seems likely to win, the goal posts have shifted and some Republicans are suggesting that they will not approve any nominee that she submits and are even arguing that the court should function with fewer justices than the norm.
Lying Ted Cruz, trying to resurrect a comeback from the ruins of his presidential ambitions, seems to be the leader of this movement.
Asked about the Supreme Court at a campaign event, Cruz said, “There will be plenty of time for debate on that issue, there is long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices, just recently Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job, that’s a debate that we are going to have.”
Cruz’s statement is but the latest in a spate of outrageous threats to come from the GOP. First, John McCain made a similar—but in retrospect, modest-seeming—statement that Senate Republicans would be united against any Clinton nominee, a claim he subsequently moderated.
And it’s not just the Supreme Court. The Senate has quietly stonewalled judicial appointments throughout the system, causing a “judicial emergency,” a term not of political rhetoric but of a federal designation of reality. The term refers to courts with judicial caseloads are so high that they endanger access to justice. The number was 12 at the beginning of 2015 and is 36 today.
It’s because Senate Republicans have confirmed only 18 of President Obama’s district court nominees since 2014, compared with 58 confirmed by the Democrat-led senate in President George W. Bush’s final years. Egged on by millions of dollars of dark money that traces back to Republican insiders Ann Corkery and funders Paul Singer and the Templeton Foundation, the Senate has crippled the federal judiciary as a whole.
And Cruz, of course, has been right at the center of it. He knows how many judicial emergencies there are, and how the Supreme Court itself has been affected. He’s just lying.
Other Republicans are signing on to Cruz’s plan.
But even such extreme obstructionism will not be enough to satisfy the angry base of the party. If Clinton becomes president, it would not surprise me in the least if a movement to impeach her begins almost immediately. The Republicans are prisoners to the Trump movement that has taken up his chant that she is a crook and should be in jail. The spineless Republican elected officials are not going to be able to resist the pressure to try and bring her down using any means at their disposal, short of a military coup.
What we are witnessing is a breakdown of the norms of government. The US system of checks and balances was based on the idea that compromises could and should be arrived at between the different branches of government and that over time the electoral swings would even things out. I am not sure where the current trend will lead but I fear it is not going to end well.