Quick Takes

* As an example of the kind of thing we used to occasionally see from Republicans, former Sen. Dave Durenberger (R-MN) teamed up with current Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to write this op-ed in our local newspaper.

The Constitution is very clear about what must happen now, in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing: “The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” a replacement.

But less than an hour after Justice Scalia’s death became public, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the Republican majority would refuse to do its constitutional duty. In fact, Senate Republicans announced that they would outright refuse to consider, or even meet with, anyone President Obama should nominate.

There is no doubt that they would prefer that this vacancy have occurred with a Republican in the White House. But there is no excuse for their outright refusal to fulfill the oath they each swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.

And, despite Senate Republicans’ misleading claims, there is absolutely no precedent for this stunning display of partisanship.

* To show how far current Republicans have strayed from that kind of reasonableness, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) basically telegraphed to President Obama’s nominee, “Nice career you got there. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it.”

The No. 2 Senate Republican warned Monday that potential nominees to the Supreme Court should consider the battle they will be forced to endure if they are picked for the post, suggesting a high-stakes slugfest could damage their reputations in a fruitless pursuit of the top court.

“I think they will bear some resemblance to a pinata,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

* Meanwhile, to demonstrate how conservatives have completely politicized this nomination process, Dean Reuter, vice president of the Federalist Society, suggested that Republicans could leave this seat on the Supreme Court open indefinitely.

There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as ten at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the Court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.

* Perhaps Senate Republicans should reconsider their plans to obstruct the President’s Supreme Court nominee given what Stuart Rothenberg wrote about what is likely to happen if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz win this presidential primary.

With Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly positioned to fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Democrats are now poised to take over the Senate in November.

* President Obama has done something that might surprise a few people.

In a rare political move, President Barack Obama has inserted himself in a Democratic state legislative primary race in his home state, backing challenger Juliana Stratton over Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago…

Stratton is the union-backed opponent challenging Dunkin, who has been getting campaign help from allies of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Dunkin has broken ranks with Democrats on several Illinois House votes, denying House Speaker Michael Madigan a 71-vote veto-proof majority.

It is uncommon for a sitting president to get involved in a primary race of his own party, let alone for a lowly post of state lawmaker. But his involvement shows the intensity of the battle between Rauner and his union-weakening agenda and Democrats and their union allies who hold supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate.

* Nick Penniman and Wendell Potter wrote an op-ed in the LA Times today titled: Citizens United is Only 15% of the Political Cash Problem.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, of the $3.7 billion spent in the 2014 congressional midterms, super PACs, nonprofits and other outside spenders made up around $560 million, or roughly 15%. In contrast, $1.5 billion, or 42%, was spent by candidates themselves, with the rest left to party committees.

Two other inside-the-Beltway terms — call time and the cash committee — illustrate why hard money is the core problem…

Overturning Citizens United or regulating super PACs would, alas, do nothing to free our politicians from this frenetic fundraising. That can only be accomplished by cutting the ties between lobbyists and legislators and redirecting politicians’ time and energy toward small donors.

* We’ve heard a lot of liberals make demands for Hillary Clinton to release the transcripts of speeches she gave to employees at Goldman Sachs. Given that this is International Women’s Day, perhaps it is especially appropriate to note that one of them was actually recorded and has been posted on youtube since October 2014. It is a speech Clinton gave to that company’s 10,000 Women initiative in support of women entrepreneurs all over the globe.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.