There’s nothing really different today than what Mitch McConnell committed Republicans to only hours after Justice Scalia’s death. But we now have a formal embrace of the ‘Three Nos’: No meetings, no hearings, no vote.
Indeed, from what I’m hearing McConnell won’t even commit to an up or down vote on a nominee from the next President. So he may want to keep this going into a next Democratic term if there is one. Indeed, all Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee committing to McConnell that they will hold no hearings on any Obama nominees. And this comes after top Republicans insisted they will not even meet with any Obama nominee, let alone hold a hearing.
I must say that I am struck not so much by the inflexibility as the brittleness of GOP resolve on this. Does every member of the Judiciary Committee really need to commit in writing to McConnell that they won’t break ranks and support a hearing?
I’m reminded of what we discussed a week ago about the Republican strategy outlined early on by GOP legal pressure groups. Namely, that the key was not to start any process at all. Having a meeting, holding a hearing – those just focus the discussion on the nominees qualifications, which is bad for Republicans since Obama will almost certainly nominate someone who is eminently qualified, generally moderate in judicial outlook and likely someone who has already been approved for an appointment by a unanimous or near unanimous vote.
In all of this I sense there is a bit of a protest too much quality to the Republican stance. No, I don’t think Obama is going to roll these guys. But they clearly want to affirm this commitment so overwhelmingly and emphatically that the debate essentially ends, that it is just understood as a given. And the debate ends. But I’m not sure that will happen. Not every Republican Senator is committing to this line. And there’s reason to think that this could be damaging, if Democrats managed the debate well, to swing state Republican Senators.