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 McConnellTrump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns Are Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 KirkAdvocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio Ex-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby MORE, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and New Hampshire’s Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteTrump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race 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 CollinsCook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move 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 WarrenTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall In shift, top CEOs say shareholder value not top goal 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges 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.