When Sens. McConnell (R-Ky.) and Grassley (R-Iowa) meet with President Obama Tuesday morning to discuss the future of the Supreme Court, they represent a Senate Republican caucus and a conservative movement that has displayed an unprecedented level of unity since Justice Scalia's untimely passing. Undoubtedly Obama and his allies hope that such meetings will change the current dynamic, and that Republicans will open up to the idea of filling the vacancy during an election year. But we have seen this movie before, and it will fit the same old pattern of win-at-all-costs political games that have animated Democratic judicial campaigns for the last three decades.
At one level, a pre-nomination meeting is nothing unusual. Presidents often consult with members of Congress in the course of their nomination decisions, even when they intend to ignore the advice. That’s what happened in 2009 and 2010, when Obama made sure to publicize his meetings with Senate Republicans about selecting the jurists who would be his first two Supreme Court nominees. As everyone knew, the meetings and rhetoric were nothing more than window dressing for the Administration’s larger strategy. As expected, Obama ignored Republican requests to nominate moderate justices and nominated two hard-left liberal activists to lifetime positions on the highest court in the land instead.
The Democrats’ strategy of blocking judicial nominees became even more extreme during the presidency of George W. Bush, as Democrats routinely used the filibuster to block Bush’s judicial nominees. A first-term senator named Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump's new debate challenge: Silence WATCH LIVE: Obama speaks at African American Museum opening Obama talks racial tension at African-American museum opening MORE went so far as to filibuster Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination, claiming at the time that Alito was “somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values.” Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerSaudis hire lobbyists amid 9/11 fight Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement Overnight Healthcare: Planned Parenthood deal in sight in Senate | A new 'public option' push MORE (D-N.Y.) took The Biden Rules one step further in 2007, promising to stonewall any additional Republican Supreme Court nominees for a full year and a half until after the election.
After Obama took office, Democrats were shocked – shocked! – that Republicans might take forceful action to stop the president’s nominees. So, under the leadership of Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidBlack Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP Report: Intelligence officials probing Trump adviser's ties to Russia White House preps agencies for possible shutdown MORE (D-Nev), the Senate took the unprecedented measure of exercising the “nuclear option” to abolish the same judicial filibuster that Democrats had used against Bush-era court nominees.
Now, of course, with a Democrat in the White House and the electoral season already in full swing, Democrats have been falling all over themselves to change the rules again. They are falsely characterizing Republican opposition as “unprecedented,” even though Democrats still in office created the precedents. They are simultaneously trying to rile up their activist base by slandering anyone who opposes a liberal-dominated Supreme Court as a “racist.”
This last charge is especially dishonest coming from the same Democrats who filibustered the first black woman to serve on the D.C. Circuit and filibustered the first Hispanic nominee to the same court seven times “because . . . he is Latino.” This is more than just chutzpah; it’s shameless hypocrisy. How dare Republicans use the same rules as Democrats!
No matter what is said in the Tuesday meeting, Republican senators should expect to receive the same treatment from the Obama administration. The leaders will hear bromides about moderation and fair-mindedness and qualifications. They’ll hear calls for a speedy confirmation process and high-sounding claims of concern about the Constitution.
And then the Democrats and their left-wing allies will use every dishonest trick in the book in the hopes of dominating the Court with liberal extremists. It’s just what they do.
Severino is chief counsel and policy director for the Judicial Crisis Network, and a former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.