Iowa senator Chuck Grassley went on CNN yesterday to disseminate GOP spin on his party’s unprecedented filibusters of three DC Circuit Court nominees. Grassley and his fellow Republicans are blocking the nominees not because they object to the nominees themselves, but because they object to the idea that President Obama is making nominations to fill existing judicial vacancies at all. To defend this nullification strategy, Republicans claim that the DC Circuit’s caseload is too low to warrant filling three of its eleven seats. Their caseload argument is both wrong and fundamentally illegitimate.
Here is a partial transcript of Grassley’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Well, it’s really a transcript of the interview that should have happened. (Areas in bold are things that were not said, but should have been.)
GRASSLEY: [The DC Circuit] is the most underworked circuit of the 12 circuits we have in this country. Their caseload on average is only half what it is — or their caseload is only half of what it is the average of the other 11 circuits in our country.
TAPPER: So you disagree with Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich, the chair of the Judicial Conference’s Standing Committee on Judicial Resources, who testified before your committee that because of the DC Circuit’s unique caseload, comparisons to the other circuits make no sense?
GRASSLEY: Um, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that.
TAPPER: And that would be the same Judge Tymkovich who said that the DC Circuit’s caseload in fact is not smaller than it was a decade ago, which is when you voted to fill the seats that you now say should be empty.
GRASSLEY: Um, can I phone a friend?
TAPPER: Chief Justice Roberts seems to disagree with you in terms of whether or not the appellate court here in DC should have these positions. Wouldn’t he know best?
GRASSLEY: He doesn’t know best from this standpoint, that we have letters from judges on that very court that said we don’t need any more judges or there wouldn’t be enough cases to go around.
TAPPER: Actually, the letter you cite doesn’t say there shouldn’t be new judges. It specifically says there shouldn’t be new “judgeships” added to the court, which no one is proposing. So how is that at all relevant? Why do you repeatedly mischaracterize it? And while we’re at it, it’s an anonymous letter. Why have you consistently refused to enter that letter into the record so people can read it for themselves? Maybe there’s more to that and other letters than the one or two sentences that you twist around to buttress your point.
GRASSLEY: Now I have a bill in to eliminate nine, ten and 11 and just eliminate one of them, but the other two, we will put in circuits where they’re more needed by caseload and then president Obama can have the privilege of appointing judges there. So we are not denying him the right to appoint judges.
TAPPER: Actually, those two other circuits are ones that the Judicial Conference says don’t need new judgeships. And the judges on those courts have not asked for new judgeships. And one of the cosponsors of the bill you mention has said that those circuits do not need and should not have new judgeships. So how can you say they need new judgeships?
GRASSLEY: Because the facts don’t matter!
TAPPER: Even if you were right on the caseload argument, the law says there are 11 seats on the DC Circuit. Is it legitimate to have the Senate act as if there were only eight seats on the court, just because you say that’s what you wish the law said?
GRASSLEY: Hey, we don’t like the law, so we can do whatever we want to nullify it. That’s what our party is all about, since we can’t actually win elections.
Senator Grassley knows that this fight isn’t about caseloads or efficiency. It’s about nullification.