People For the American Way

How Many Deceptions Can Chuck Grassley Fit in Just One Statement?

News and Analysis

With apologies to Burger King, Senator Chuck Grassley has once again shown that he may be the king of the whoppers.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee was on Fox News this morning discussing whether Neil Gorsuch will have the supermajority support in the Senate he will need for confirmation. Grassley stated:

… and then you also have to remember that Clinton had two nominees, vacancies, Obama two, Republicans didn’t filibuster them. Democrats did filibuster one of George W. Bush’s nominees. Since Republicans haven’t filibustered, it seems to me that President Trump should have the same consideration from them, and that’s a point I’m going to push.

Two??  Obama only had two Supreme Court nominees?

As any second grader could tell you, two and three are different numbers.  Obama did not have two Supreme Court vacancies and nominees, as Grassley states.  He had three.  Grassley’s “alternative fact” that Merrick Garland was never nominated to the Court must be confronted whenever he uses it as part of his cloud of obfuscation.

I’m sure the chairman would like the world to forget the unprecedented assault against democratic norms he engaged in by denying Judge Garland even a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.  But we have not forgotten how Grassley and Mitch McConnell collaborated to pretend that Garland’s nomination simply didn’t happen or matter.  That alone is enough to ensure that Chuck Grassley’s legacy in the history books will be as someone who put partisanship over principle, unconcerned about the damage he was causing to the Senate, our judiciary, and our nation’s democratic system.

And that partisanship explains another deceptive part of Grassley’s statement. It’s clear that he wants Republicans to get credit for not filibustering the SCOTUS nominees of the last two Democratic presidents (of course, you can’t filibuster a nominee who’s hasn’t even been allowed a hearing).  Recall that he said:

Republicans didn’t filibuster [Clinton and Obama’s nominees]. … Since Republicans haven’t filibustered, it seems President Trump should have the same consideration from [Democrats], and that’s a point I’m going to push.

Well, let’s look at those Democratic presidents’ nominations and see why Republicans didn’t filibuster them:

  1. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg being confirmed 96-3, it would have been really tough for her three opponents to mount a successful filibuster.
  1. With Stephen Breyer being confirmed 87-9, his nine opponents would have been equally hard-pressed to mount a successful filibuster.
  1. Sonia Sotomayor had strong supermajority support and was confirmed 68-31; Republicans voting against her knew that a filibuster would have been completely useless.
  1. Elena Kagan also had supermajority support and was confirmed 63-37.  Yet again, Republicans knew not to waste their time with a filibuster that would not work.
  1. Merrick Garland was not filibustered because Senate Republicans denied him a committee hearing in the first place.

Both Presidents Clinton and Obama nominated jurists who could garner supermajority support in the Senate.  For Grassley to demand credit for not filibustering them takes some chutzpah.

Had President Trump, like Clinton and Obama, nominated a jurist who could garner that kind of support, then no one would be talking about the need for 60 votes; that need would be satisfied by a high quality moderate nominee who could win the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.  Unfortunately, Trump chose to nominate Neil Gorsuch, whose history of favoring the wealthy and powerful does not warrant majority support, let also supermajority support.