Speaking about the prospects for replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s highest court, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered a prediction.
“There will no longer be 96-0 Antonin Scalia confirmations or unanimous Sandra Day O’Connor confirmations,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Those days of politics, unfortunately in my view, … are gone now.”
Let’s hope he’s wrong.
There is every likelihood the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will confirm President Donald J. Trump’s selection to succeed Ginsburg. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised as much.
And the opposition, of course, is already plotting revenge. There’s talk that if Democrats win back the Senate and the White House, they should pack the court by adding more members.
That’s a bad idea.
Republicans will tell you this whole fight was started by the Democrats. They say Harry Reid, when he was majority leader, invoked the so-called “nuclear option” when Barack Obama was in the White House.
The Senate then had a 60-vote threshold for judicial confirmations, and Obama was struggling to get any of his judicial appointments confirmed. Republicans were blocking nearly every selection, and the growing number of judicial vacancies was causing backlogs in the courts.
Democrats will point out that the move applied only to federal judges. It was Republicans, they say, who escalated the fight to include the Supreme Court.
The idea behind that 60-vote threshold was to encourage bipartisanship. If a candidate could not attract at least minimal support from the opposing party, maybe that candidate wasn’t such a good choice for the federal bench.
Both parties might do well to take note of the example set by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Justice Roger Taney died in the final weeks before a presidential election, and Lincoln chose to wait until the voters had spoken before putting forward a nomination.
Our president, of course, is no Abraham Lincoln.
He’s also no Harry Truman. Truman in 1944 was faced with a Supreme Court opening soon after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Republicans were still smarting from Roosevelt’s efforts to pack the court, and the new president decided to extend an olive branch by naming Republican U.S. Sen. Harold Burton to the open seat.
Or how about then-Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen who convinced 27 members of his caucus to join with 44 Democrats to end the longest filibuster in Senate history and push forward the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Those are the kinds of examples today’s leaders should follow. This nation was built on consensus, on the idea that everyone should have a voice.
Appearing on that same Sunday news show with Christie, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to an encounter between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and a man who was protesting the former vice president’s appearance. Biden gave the man an elbow bump.
“I will also be your president,” he said.
Emanuel, a man known for his hard ball approach as a member of the Obama administration, suggested the image of Biden and the protester would resonate with voters.
“That is the America people are yearning for,” he said. “Not the Mitch McConnell/Donald Trump, even when we don’t have a majority, we’re going to ram something through and then destroy the fabric of this country.”
A few minutes on social media will tell you Emanuel’s vision is not the America everyone is yearning for. For too many of us, politics today is “my way or the highway.” We’ve bought into the notion that our side has all the answers and the other side has nothing of value to contribute.
Biden says he’ll work with both parties to address the challenges facing our country. That might be reason enough to support him.
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at [email protected] Find him on Twitter @Kelly_Hawes