Juan Williams: GOP's Supreme Court block will backfire

Juan Williams: GOP's Supreme Court block will backfire
© Greg Nash

As the GOP’s Senate majority hangs in the balance, here is the inspiring message from Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' MORE (R- Ky.) as he asks voters to keep Republicans in charge: Senate Republicans will stop President Obama from putting anyone on the Supreme Court.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in February after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last week found that 52 percent of registered voters want the Senate to vote this year on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. Just 30 percent say there should not be a vote, while 18 percent are undecided. 

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Despite that strong message, McConnell refuses to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on Garland’s nomination. The Republican leader has even refused Garland the courtesy of an introductory meeting. 

Yes, blocking a nominee from Obama will appeal to the hard-right base of the GOP. But McConnell’s most vulnerable Senate incumbents come from states that Obama won in 2012. 

Senate Republicans will need the votes of independents and conservative Democrats to hold on to their majority. How does blocking a centrist Democrat nominee to the high court help?

Three Republican senators have defied McConnell and agreed to meet with Garland. They are Illinois’ Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and New Hampshire’s Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSchultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid Bottom Line US, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior MORE

All three are in close reelection races in states that were carried by Democrats in the last three presidential elections. 

Kirk won his Senate seat by less than 2 points in the Tea Party wave year of 2010. His likely Democratic opponent is popular Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee. 

Kirk is one of only two GOP senators, the other being Maine’s Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE, who support a vote on Garland’s nomination. In a radio interview, Kirk told his colleagues to “man up” and have an up-or-down vote. 

Toomey and Ayotte did not go so far as to call for a vote or a hearing after their meetings. 

Toomey only won his seat by two percentage points in the GOP-friendly 2010 election.

After Ayotte met with Garland, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) pounced, saying it was shallow political theatre.  

“Don’t be fooled by the dog and pony show Senator Kelly Ayotte is holding today – she is still choosing unprecedented constitutional obstruction over doing her job,” said Lauren Passalacqua, DSCC national press secretary.

This is all the consequence of McConnell’s decision to make blocking Garland the signature issue for Senate Republicans.

The White House and Senate Democrats have a clear message for McConnell: “It’s time for the Senate to do its job,” as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release MORE (D-Mass.) put it in a March statement.

There is a hashtag movement, too, with the same loud drumbeat calling for the Senate to “#doyourjob.” President Obama joined in with a tweet in February that said the “Senate has no excuse to delay. #doyour job.”

McConnell’s blunt refusal to consider Garland fits with the image of the broken, dysfunctional Republican Party that is forcing Senate candidates to run away from its nominating convention.

Last week, four GOP senators said they would not attend the convention, set for Cleveland in July. Their message is that the selection of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge Michael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid MORE as the party’s presidential nominee — or a fight to push another name into the winner’s circle — is not going to help any Republican Senate candidate.

According to the most recent Cook Political Report, five out of six of the closest Senate races in the country are for seats currently held by Republicans. Moreover, the GOP is defending 24 Senate seats while the Democrats are only defending 10.

According to the most recent FEC filings, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has raised $49.5 million this election cycle while the DSCC has raised $74.3 million.

This means that the national Republican Party has fewer resources to spend on saving their most vulnerable incumbents and national Democrats have more resources to devote to taking them out.  

If Senate Republicans lose their majority this November they will have no shortage of factors and people to blame. There can point to the down-ticket drag of a toxic presidential nominee like Trump or Cruz. Or they can look at the party’s broader failure to appeal to an electorate that is becoming more diverse all the time.

But they can also point to McConnell for forcing them to carry the albatross of Garland obstructionism around their necks. 

Chances are they will be able to find him in the Senate Minority Leader’s office in the Capitol next year. 

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People," published by Crown, is out now.