Democrats Obstruct As Senator Grassley Vets Supreme Court

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Roger D. Klein Doctor and health care expert
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Immediately upon Justice Anthony Kennedy’s June 27 announcement of his retirement, Senate Democrats vowed to do their utmost to challenge, delay and otherwise obstruct any presidential appointment to the Supreme Court.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted, “My @SenateGOP colleagues should follow the rule they set in 2016 not to consider a SCOTUS nominee in an election year,” and took to the Senate floor to call for a delay in vote until after the midterms.

Many other Senate Democrats joined the chorus, with Connecticut Sen.Chris Murphy signaling his strategy to “the resistance”: “If McConnell insists on starting proceedings on a radical Trump nominee, I will do everything in my power to stop him. I did not run for the Senate to grease the skids for radicals on the Supreme Court to decimate the rights of millions of Americans.”

“We now must fight,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said before a nominee had even been named.

Since being confronted with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an extraordinarily well-qualified and much-liked prospective justice, Senate Democrats have foundered. They have unsuccessfully attempted to paint the widely-respected Kavanaugh as an arch-conservative who is outside the political mainstream.

These efforts have had little effect, however, because of Kavanaugh’s stellar judicial record, his outstanding credentials and the support he has received from prominent liberal legal lawyers and legal scholars.

Democrats’ obstructionist efforts have focused on trying to postpone Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. As part of his long-odds strategy, Sen. Schumer has urged his Democrat colleagues in swing states to hold out for as long as possible before supporting Kavanaugh’s appointment.

According to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “All Chuck [Schumer] ever says in caucus [meetings], it’s pretty well known: ‘Keep your powder dry. Don’t commit. Stay as neutral as you can, as long as you can’ … It gives him some room to maneuver.”  

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have chiefly sought delay through unreasonable requests for millions of pages of protected presidential documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in a non-legal, White House administrative position many years ago.

These documents bear little relevance to his performance as a judge or future justice. They went as far as to request every email from the hundreds of White House staff members with whom Judge Kavanaugh worked over a six-year period.

“Democratic leaders continue to make unreasonable demands for more and more documents,” Grassley said. “They would like to bury the Senate in a mountain of irrelevant documents in order to delay the confirmation,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. Senate Democrats even refused to move forward with requesting documents they acknowledged were wanted by both sides.

Despite this Democrat-manufactured hubbub, Sen. Grassley has been leading an exceptionally fair, thorough, efficient and highly transparent confirmation process. In this, he has been assisted by Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive “paper trail,” which includes law review articles, speeches, over 300 authored judicial opinions and hundreds of decisions he joined during his 12 years as a Judge on one of the nation’s most prestigious courts.

When all is said and done, Grassley will have received over a million pages of documents, and Kavanaugh will likely be the most vetted Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.

After learning of Justice Kennedy’s resignation, Schumer claimed that it would be the “height of hypocrisy” for Republicans to vote on a nominee before the midterm elections. This is untrue. The situation today is far different than that facing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016, when he deferred a vote on Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland.  

Under the Constitution, the authority to appoint justices of the Supreme Court rests with the president, and at that time, a new president was about to be elected.

Sen. McConnell merely exercised a Constitutional prerogative under the Senate’s confirmation power and deferred the vote pending the election of a new president. In this case, President Trump is in the early stages of his presidency. The next presidential election is over two years from now.

Delaying the vote on a Supreme Court nominee in anticipation of a midterm election, in which the next president is not at issue and only a third of the 100-person Senate is up for re-election, would be unprecedented. It is worth noting that both Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan were confirmed immediately preceding midterm elections. Importantly, Schumer simply lacks the authority to prevent a confirmation vote.

Much of the Democrat maneuvering is, of course, political grandstanding. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews noted, “There is no way politically the Democratic base will stand for any kind of hearings or vote for a Trump nominee before the election …”

Veteran Democrat pol Paul Begala also chimed in, “I don’t think any Democrat is going to go along with a Trump appointee to the Supreme Court,” he said. “Not if he or she wants to raise any money or have any volunteers.”

However, we may finally be seeing cracks in the wall. After initially refusing to meet with Judge Kavanaugh, Senate Democrats announced on August 3 that they would lift their boycott after the Senate returns from its current recess on August 15.

In the meanwhile, Republicans are looking forward to elevating one of the Country’s foremost jurists to the Nation’s highest court.

Dr. Roger D. Klein is an expert on health care for the Regulatory Transparency Project. He is a former adviser to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.