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As Republicans defend court corruption, they're stopping Democrat from appointing judges
And Senate Democrats are letting it happen, as Senator Feinstein's absence stalls appointments
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LGBTQ rights are under brutal assault. Abortion rights have been devastated. And every day we see mass shootings that remind us of the dire consequences of a lack of gun reform.
On all of these issues, Republican state legislatures are not able to be held in check by Democrats, as Republicans have huge majorities because of GOP gerrymandering. We just witnessed the full outcome of this kind of absolute power in Tennessee, where the GOP authoritarians thought nothing of expelling Black members of the legislature.
It’s more vital than ever for the federal courts to step in. Even there, Donald Trump appointed a historic number of judges. But President Joe Biden had actually been outpacing him, even if he has not caught up. It’s critical that that keep happening—except it's not.
It’s bad enough that Trump installed several justices on the highest court—two of those Supreme Court vacancies were stolen by Republicans—but now Republicans have declared open warfare on Biden’s ability to appoint all other federal judges right now.
Senator Diane Feinstein, 89 years old and recovering from shingles, has not been able to be in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee. Without that one vote in the closely divided Senate, Republicans are able to slow appointments—something that, with Democrats picking up a 51st seat in 2022, was supposed to end.
And the GOP is now refusing to allow the Democrats’ request—at the behest of Feinstein—to replace Feinstein on the committee temporarily. It’s something rarely done, and would require a vote. But Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and even Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah ( so much for the so-called “moderates”) have said they’re not going to allow it to happen, and others are joining them.
Meanwhile, Republicans are defending the outrageous violations of rules and federal law by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who accepted millions of dollars in gifts—in the form of lavish trips—and even cash from a GOP megadonor, who paid Thomas to buy his mother’s home and then let her live there rent-free while he did renovations. Thomas failed to disclose any of this.
"Justice Thomas has been attacked and excoriated since his confirmation hearing, and I suspect this is just a continuation of that," Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told HuffPost on Monday, while Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said: "It happens all the time. Justices... are entitled to have friends."
Federal district court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, meanwhile, who a little over a week ago breathtakingly overturned the FDA’s approval of medication abortion from over two decades ago, turns out to have violated Senate requirements to disclose any publication with which a nominee is associated.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that he took his name off of a 2017 law journal article in which he condemned gender-affirming care for trans people—doctors "cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male,” he wrote—and medication abortion, hiding it from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cornyn tepidly said he "should have" disclosed it—the only Republican to say anything—but did not call on Kacsmaryk to resign, as Democrats have.
So the GOP is defending corrupt, extremist judges appointed by Republicans while vowing to block President Biden from appointing judges, stopping Democrats from appointing a Feinstein replacement. Romney told NBC:
They’d like Republicans to help them speed the appointment of more liberal justices? Yes, when hell freezes over.
Democrats share the blame as well. They’re split on pressuring Feinstein to simply resign from the Senate—she’s retiring at the end of her term, which is at the end of next year—and have Governor Gavin Newsom of California appoint a replacement until the 2024 election.
And Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Judiciary Committee, is allowing Republicans to steamroll Democrats and begging them to please be nice when he should be hitting them hard. Per NBC:
Earlier Monday, Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged Republicans to show "a little kindness and care" toward Feinstein and greenlight a temporary committee replacement, noting that a similar situation could happen to them in the future.
"She is obviously sensitive to the fact that her absence has an impact on the committee," Durbin told reporters. "I’m not going to push her into any other decision. I think we can take care of this issue, do it very quickly, and I hope we can find 10 Republicans who will join us in that effort."
Show a little kindness? Really? This is the MAGA GOP we’re talking about. What Durbin should be doing is revoking the "blue slip" rule, which allows senators the courtesy of rejecting nominees for federal judges in their home state. Right now, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi is using the blue slip to block the nomination of Biden nominee Scott Colom as a federal judge for the Northern District of Mississippi.
Durbin put out a statement a little over a week ago saying he’s "extremely disappointed in Sen. Hyde-Smith’s lack of communication and ultimate obstruction of a highly qualified nominee," noting that he’ll "be assessing and will respond more fully."
Disappointed? Assessing? We are in the middle of an emergency of immense proportions—a five-alarm fire on civil rights. How is Durbin not using all the power he has and playing hardball, as the Republicans are doing right now by not allowing a Feinstein replacement?
Yes, the GOP, whether in the House or the Senate, is undemocratic and hellbent on minority rule, grasping for absolute power. But the Democrats are allowing them to get away with it.