Friday, May 31, 2013

Now It's "Court Packing"

It is true, as Digby maintains, that (Bob) "Dole previewed the nasty attitude that animates the right today. He may have been more of a legislative pragmatist, but his rhetoric was Gingrichian before Gingrich was cool."   Still, as she concedes, Dole was a singularly humorous politician and accurate when

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the Senate was broken, Dole responded that “it is bent pretty badly.”

“It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget, or legislation,” said Dole, who served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996. “We weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

Dole came back to the Senate last December to support a United Nations treaty to bar discrimination against people with disabilities, which failed after a vast majority of Republicans declined to support it.

Dole said in his Fox News interview that he isn’t sure there would be a place for him and other big-time Republicans of his generation, like Presidents Reagan and Nixon, in the current GOP.

“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it,” said Dole, who called himself a “mainstream conservative Republican.”

The former Kansas Senator and 1996 GOP presidential candidate made these remarks Sunday- before the latest indication that the Repub Party has become a hyperpartisan gang of ruthless rogues.  On Tuesday, Dole's charges were verified when Jennifer Bendery of The Huffington Post revealed

Republican senators are fuming about President Barack Obama's attempt to fill empty seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, charging him with "court-packing" and alleging that his push to confirm nominees is all politics.

But not only is Obama not "court-packing" -- a term describing an attempt to add judges to a court with the goal of shifting the balance, not filling existing vacancies -- but Republicans' efforts to prevent Obama from appointing judges amount to their own attempt to tip the scales in their favor. What's more, some of the GOP senators trying to prevent his nominees from advancing previously voted to fill the court when there was a Republican in the White House.

As it stands, the powerful D.C. Circuit has 11 seats, three of which are vacant. Obama has signaled plans to put forward nominees for all three open slots as soon as this week. But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republicans are pushing legislation that would eliminate those seats and keep the court where it is: with eight judges, four of whom were appointed by Democrats and four of whom were appointed by Republicans.

Grassley has argued that the court simply doesn't need to have three more judges because it has a lighter workload than other circuit courts -- a stance that Democrats say overlooks the fact that the court is second in stature only to the Supreme Court and takes on particularly complex cases. But Grassley has also suggested that Obama is trying to pack the court.

"I'm concerned about the caseload of this circuit and the efforts to pack it," Grassley complained during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, charging the administration -- six times -- with court-packing. Of course, Grassley was quickly corrected by a colleague, who said that court-packing isn't about filling existing vacancies.

Still, Grassley isn't alone in making these charges. During floor remarks last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of plotting with the White House "to pack the D.C. Circuit with appointees," and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) worried aloud that Democrats may "decide to play politics and seek -- without any legitimate justification -- to pack the D.C. Circuit with unneeded judges simply in order to advance a partisan agenda."

Even The Wall Street Journal piled on last week, arguing in an editorial that the D.C. Circuit "doesn't need new judges to handle the workload" and filling those vacant seats would be akin to "packing the court for political ends."

Despite Bendery's claim to the contrary, it is not "a sign of just how partisan the Senate has become when a president's effort to nominate judges for empty seats is equated with court-packing."  It is a sign of how partisan the Repub congressional party (as well as the WSJ) has become.

There is, however, a glimmer of consolation in all this, the suspicion that the GOP is merely play-acting.    Commenting on Gingrich's perspective, James Antle III in The American Conservative laments "Today’s GOP is as much Gingrich’s party as Reagan’s or Nixon’s. Chest-beating often replaces prudence, the party frequently makes use of both libertarian and traditionalist themes without taking either of them very seriously."  Fortunately, many in the party's congressional wing probably don't really believe what they say about court-packing, or much of anything else.

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