Newspaper editorial boards are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for promising that he and his fellow Republican senators would block any and all nominees for the Supreme Court put forth by a President Hillary Clinton, noting that McCain’s promise upends the GOP’s stated reasons for refusing to even hold a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
McCain Makes Case For Retaining GOP Senate Majority By Promising United Opposition To “Any Supreme Court Nominee” From Clinton
McCain: “I Promise You That We Will Be United Against Any Supreme Court Nominee That Hillary Clinton, If She Were President, Would Put Up.” As first reported by CNN’s KFile, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promised a Philadelphia radio host that if Republicans retain a Senate majority, they “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee” from a President Hillary Clinton. From CNN’s October 17 article:
Asked on the Dom Giordano program on 1210 WPHT Philadelphia radio whether Trump was the superior candidate on issues like the Supreme Court, the Arizona senator replied, “Uh, first of all, I don't know, because I hear him saying a lot of different things.”
Later in the interview, McCain used the opportunity to make the case for fellow Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is locked in a close battle to retain his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. McCain promised that Republicans would be “united against any Supreme Court nominee” put forth by Clinton.
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.” [CNN.com, 10/17/16]
McCain Spokesperson Attempted To Walk Back McCain’s Promise To Block All Clinton Nominees. After McCain’s comments were reported by CNN, McCain spokesperson Rachael Dean tried to walk them back in a statement:
Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees. That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career. [Slate, 10/19/16]
Newspaper Editorial Boards Slam McCain For His Promise Of Judicial Obstruction
Wash. Post: “This Is A Dangerous Road.” The Washington Post’s editorial board lamented McCain’s comments as “another sad marker” for McCain this election season and criticized him for “surrender[ing] his honor to toxic partisanship” and “recklessly encourag[ing] Republican voters to expect that GOP senators will refuse any Democratic Supreme Court nominee.” From the October 17 editorial:
It is profoundly depressing to watch Americans of honor and goodwill surrender to toxic partisanship and become part of the problem. Listen, for Exhibit A, to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday.
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” Mr. McCain said on a Philadelphia radio show. “I promise you,” he repeated. Before the past year, the notion that presidents deserve a measure of deference in selecting Supreme Court nominees was among the nation’s essential political norms.
Then, Senate Republicans ignored President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, among the best Supreme Court picks of the past half-century, supposedly on the principle that the next president should get to fill the Supreme Court’s open seat. Now Mr. McCain is suggesting that that justification was simply pretext for a partisan blockade that he would like to continue.
Even if Ms. Clinton tapped someone considered more liberal than Mr. Garland, that nominee would deserve a fair hearing. Senators should accept presidential nominees unless they are either truly unqualified or true ideological extremists. The functioning of government depends on speedy and open-minded judicial confirmations. In the past, Mr. McCain, who ran for president in 2008 and recognizes the importance of a sound appointment process, was a voice of restraint on these matters. Now he recklessly encourages Republican voters to expect that GOP senators will refuse any Democratic Supreme Court nominee.
This is a dangerous road. If the Republicans keep the Senate majority next month, acting on such an expectation will establish the precedent that the judicial branch can be staffed only when the president and the Senate are of the same party. If the Democrats take control, GOP intransigence could lead them to quash the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, which would further politicize the judiciary and poison the process.
Like many Republicans, Mr. McCain hit a professional low when he endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this year, an endorsement he retracted only after seeing a video of Mr. Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. His vow to further politicize the judicial nomination process is another sad marker. [The Washington Post, 10/17/16]
LA Times: McCain’s “Outrageous Threat” Is “A Reminder Of Just How Unprincipled Republicans Have Been In Refusing To Bring The Court Up To Strength.” The Los Angeles Times editorial board decried McCain’s “outrageous threat” and noted that, while senators have a role in the appointment of judges, they “abuse that authority when they reflexively reject or block a nominee from a president of the opposite party.” The board wrote that McCain’s statement was “a reminder of just how unprincipled Republicans have been in refusing” to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. From the October 19 editorial:
After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this year, President Obama went about nominating a successor, as required by the Constitution. But Senate Republicans — including John McCain of Arizona — resisted, insisting that the vacancy should be filled by the president chosen by voters in November. They invoked (or fabricated) a “rule” that a president’s right to have his Supreme Court nominees considered by the Senate lapses in an election year.
Now that Hillary Clinton seems likely to win the election, however, some Republicans are changing their tune. This week, McCain promised that “we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” Huh?
It was a reminder of just how unprincipled Republicans have been in refusing to bring the court up to strength. This fight has been all about partisan advantage, and if that means the court must leave some important issues unresolved because of a 4-4 deadlock, so be it.
McCain’s outrageous threat also highlighted a longer-term problem: the bipartisan repudiation of the idea that the Senate should defer to a president’s choice of a Supreme Court justice so long as the nominee is well qualified, untarnished by accusations of personal wrongdoing and within the mainstream of legal thought.
The Constitution does provide for a role for the Senate in the appointment of judges, including Supreme Court justices. But senators abuse that authority when they reflexively reject or block a nominee from a president of the opposite party. Merrick Garland, an experienced federal appeals court judge who was nominated by Obama in March to replace Scalia, still hasn’t been afforded even a hearing.
The Republicans’ obstructionism is wrong; it also could backfire by giving the next president an even freer hand in shaping the Supreme Court. Some might call that poetic justice. [Los Angeles Times, 10/19/16]
Eastern Arizona Courier: McCain’s Comments Show GOP “Doubl[ing] Down On Gridlock.” In an October 19 editorial, the Eastern Arizona Courier’s editorial board cited McCain’s promise to oppose all Clinton Supreme Court nominees as an example of Republicans “doubl[ing] down on gridlock” and “putting up a blockade against reason.” The board noted that McCain’s comments contradict his earlier justification for opposing Garland’s nomination; McCain previously said, “‘I want the next president to be held responsible for the selection of his or her nominee.’” From the editorial:
Donald Trump is polling poorly following his sexist comments recorded during an off-camera discussion with an entertainment show host. So what do the Republicans do?
Double down on gridlock, of course.
CNN is reporting Arizona’s own Sen. John McCain promising to block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Hillary Clinton, should she win the presidency in November.
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. I promise you,” McCain is quoted by CNN as saying.
Remember, this is the same John McCain who said he would block any nominee put forward by current President Barack Obama. Not because Obama is a Democrat and McCain is a Republican, but because Obama had less than a year left in office.
“This is about a lame-duck president who will be unaccountable to the American people. And I think that one of the most important duties of a president of the United States is to nominate. Obviously, as we know, it's the Senate that confirms. But I want the next president to be held responsible for the selection of his or her nominee,” McCain told the Arizona Republic last February, following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Apparently, accountability is a one-way street. [Eastern Arizona Courier, 10/19/16]
Star-Ledger: McCain Is A “Party Hack” Who “No Longer Cares About How Well Government Functions.” The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board wrote that McCain’s comments show he is “eager to prove that no principle is too fundamental to be shredded in the name of party loyalty,” labeling him a “party hack.” The editorial also dismissed his spokesperson’s claim that McCain would evaluate Clinton nominees’ qualifications, pointing to Senate Republicans’ obstruction of Garland’s confirmation. From the October 22 editorial:
Just in time to poison another quadrennial with more obstructionism, here comes John McCain, eager to prove that no principle is too fundamental to be shredded in the name of party loyalty.
In a radio interview Monday, he vowed to keep our government as dysfunctional as he can, stating that the Republican party “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.”
Remember that Maverick thing? Neither do we.
Running for a superfluous sixth term, McCain is trying to hold onto his job by reminding his base that he no longer cares about how well government functions, which has been obvious since those Country First bumper stickers were dropped into a shredder in 2009.
There is one empty seat on the Court and three sitting justices are 78 and older, so there is a possibility that the next president will have up to four vacancies to fill. Apparently, the Senate majority – notably the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee - will permanently turn advise-and-consent into block-and-impede, because they believe it's their constitutional duty to neuter one of the three branches of government.
They've done it for eight months by blocking Merrick Garland, on the premise that President Obama shouldn't be entitled to fill a court vacancy while he is in the final year of his term. So how far are McCain's soulmates willing to go? Would they prefer there be three vacancies until a Republican occupies the White House, assuming their party still exists in four years?
A spokeswoman tried to walk back the SCOTUS scheme, only to trip and hurt her head. She said McCain “believes you can only judge people by their record, and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees.” She added that McCain will “thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications.”
Right, just like it was all about Judge Garland's qualifications.
It's really about strict constitutionalists who worship Antonin Scalia defying the constitution, and it's ongoing: The GOP-dominated Senate confirmed just 11 federal judges last year, the fewest since 1960.
McCain once said he was going to change all that. Twice he ran for president as a principled centrist, only to turn petulant and imperious in defeat, and it's still hard to know what he stands for after 30 years in the Senate.
Now he is part of a machine that believes in subversion, the most fundamental heresy against the constitutional order. Maverick, indeed. [The Star-Ledger, 10/22/16]