Editorial: GOP faces risks if Supreme Court swings too far right

Swinging the Supreme Court to a conservative majority is an honor that solely belongs to Sen. Majority Mitch McConnell. He is the man who led the Republican charge to deny Judge Merrick Garland, a moderate judge based on his past jurisprudence. President Barrack Obama nominated Garland because he reflected mainstream views — not liberal or radical, not ultra conservative, but views the vast majority of Americans could embrace — even most Republicans.
But McConnell, in a highly partisan and precedent-breaking move, refused to allow a Senate hearing or vote on Garland’s nomination for the entire last year of Obama’s term — long before Trump was ever considered a viable candidate. Trump gets credit only for nominating a conservative judge — any conservative — who was alert and breathing. For this Congress, and this Republican majority, that is all that was needed. The hearings on Gorsuch were a sham, as he ducked every ideological question with statements so vague as to be meaningless.
But it didn’t matter: McConnell had his majority and he was going to deploy the “nuclear option” and forever change the way the Senate operates. This is McConnell’s victory (less so for Trump) and it will also be his albatross — his burden in history to bear. Why, because Gorsuch’s judicial record does not reflect the perspective of most Americans. He has a troubling record on women’s rights; just as bad with worker’s rights; and it is not surprising that in many rulings he has favored corporations over people.
When cases are decided by this Supreme Court that reflect that anti-woman, anti-worker, pro-corporation bias — offending the sensibilities of most Americans — voters will learn to despise the GOP justices and their perspective just as religious conservatives despise Roe V. Wade.
There is also the stain of McConnell’s political shenanigans that he used to pull this off.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and one of the most senior members of the Senate, issued this statement:
“Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wasted little time to put partisanship ahead of statesmanship. He immediately forced a series of procedural votes to change Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for cloture on Supreme Court nominees. Not having enough votes to override a filibuster, Senator McConnell chose to lower the threshold to a simple majority or 50 votes.
“It is clear that a Republican-led Senate is a dangerous Senate. We can’t stand for Republicans that damage the very fabric of the Senate — an institution that I have fought to protect throughout my 42 years as a senator… Nominees to the Supreme Court are for life and will often sit on the court for decades. The 60-vote threshold was an important Senate rule that required bipartisan consensus on such an important nomination.”
Why is 60 votes better than a simple majority? Because, as Sen. Leahy says, “the American people deserve a Supreme Court justice who is in the mainstream of judicial thought, someone who will carefully consider each case presented to him without being blinded by partisan ideology. Unfortunately, Neil Gorsuch will not be that kind of justice. After the truly shocking treatment of Judge Merrick Garland, Republicans have now damaged the Senate even further in the name of pure partisanship — putting the rights of women, workers, and everyday Americans at risk.”
For McConnell, Trump and other Republicans gleeful of the change, they can chalk it up as a victory, but it also poses the kind of societal change that could cause even greater damage to the Republican brand in the years to come, and narrow the party’s appeal even more.
Angelo Lynn

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