Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The end justifies the means

From the Daily Kos, a left wing blog, comes another escalation in partisan divide.

Liberals have (rightly) complained about the Senate's unwillingness to consider President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. We should not leave the Court short handed for close to a year for purely partisan purposes.

Now the Daily Kos takes partisan, by any means necessary, poliltics to a new level. A petition on their site suggests that on January 3 there will technically only be 66 senators (until the newly elected or re-elected senators are sworn in) and that the Democrats have a 34-30 majority. Therefore, Joe Biden, acting as President of the Senate, could allow a motion to vote on Judge Garland and confirm him before the new senators are sworn in.

Let's hear it for "victory by any means, fair or foul." Rather than an honest vote as implied by the Constitution (advice and consent of the Senate) they would use a technicality to get their way. A technicality which would surely be contested. Does a Senate term start on January 3 or only after being sworn in? Can the Senate conduct business before members are sworn in? Could Biden refuse to swear in the new Senators for longer, allowing other business Democrats favor and Republicans oppose? The Garland nomination would likely be further tied up in court battles for months longer.

This "by any means necessary" could also backfire if Republicans decide go further playing fast and loose with the rules. Suppose the Republican majority in the Senate contrives to meet (not telling the Democrats), declare the Senate in session, and then proceeds to pass bills which the Democrats object to (and would have filibustered). Would this be legal? Probably. Would it encourage bipartisan cooperation? Not at all. Neither would executing Senate business at a time when new Senators are supposed to be sworn in.

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