I have to admit that Senator McConnell’s ability to keep his troops of Republican Senators in line over these last seven years has been what some might call “impressive.” The plan to totally obstruct anything President Obama and Democrats attempted to do meant that he had to get Senators from traditionally blue/swing states to go along. Time after time we witnessed his ability to do that.
Shortly after the death of Justice Scalia, McConnell announced the ultimate in total obstruction tactics. He issued three “no’s” to any nominee put forward by this President: no meetings, no hearings, no vote. But on this one, he hasn’t managed to make it stick.
A quarter of Republican Senators (16) have announced that they will meet with Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Last week, three Senators came out in favor of holding hearings: Kirk, Collins and Moran. And now, Senator Kirk has said that he would consider voting for Garland.
Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday became the first Republican to say he might be willing to vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
“Obviously I would consider voting for him,” the Illinois senator told reporters before he met with the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. “That’s the whole purpose.”
While not going as far as Kirk, Senator Collins indicated something similar.
“The President, whether Republicans like him or not, is our President until next January, until Inauguration Day and it just seemed to me that there was no basis for saying that no matter who the President nominates, we were not going to consider that individual.”…
Hearings and meetings “are the best way to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views,” Collins said. “Undoubtably, there will be issues that would arise in a hearing that would provide grounds for people who don’t want to vote for Judge Garland or in those who do.”
Obviously this isn’t enough of a break in McConnell’s troop discipline to get movement on hearings – much less a vote – on Judge Garland’s nomination. But the key figure in all this is Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Steve Benen reported yesterday, he is going to extraordinary lengths in his blue/swing state of Iowa to avoid public confrontation over his position. First of all, he is not publicly announcing his speaking engagements and/or meetings with constituents. Secondly, he is only visiting staunchly conservative areas of the state where he received 80-90% of the vote in his last election. Finally, even in those areas, he is facing “tough and repeated questions over his refusal to hold hearings on a nominee to the Supreme Court.”
It is anyone’s guess about whether the “no hearings” and “no vote” portion of McConnell’s plan will hold for the next seven months. But it is clear that the Majority Leader is facing some insurrection from the troops he had previously managed to keep in line.