Friday, April 08, 2022

The Three Free Votes

Credit should be given to Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah for deciding to vote to confirm the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court. The Washington Post noted that 47 Republicans had voted against confirmation

But to three Republican senators, the narrative that Jackson was a partisan extremist did not ring true. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Jackson had the “experience, qualifications, and integrity” to merit confirmation and, in backing Jackson, appealed to her colleagues to step back from the partisan brinkmanship that has increasingly dominated Supreme Court confirmations.

 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said much the same, decrying the “corrosive politicization of the review process for Supreme Court nominees, which, on both sides of the aisle, is growing worse and more detached from reality by the year.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), meanwhile, declared Jackson to be “a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.”

You can be forgiven if you believed those GOP votes were pivotal, or even significant.  Collins made her announcement on March 30, thereby, as The Post noted, "becoming the first Republican senator to publicly back President Biden’s nominee and all but guaranteeing Jackson will become the first Black female justice in history. "

The following Monday, Senator Murkowski announced that she would vote for Jackson and Senator Romney followed a couple of hours later.

That was all for show.  The real news had come five days before Collins' statement when on March 25 Senator Joe Manchin announced

that he will vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, clearing the way to an all-but-certain confirmation.

The West Virginia Democrat has become a pivotal vote in the evenly divided Senate, as he often sides with Republicans, and his opposition could have blocked Jackson from becoming the first Black woman to sit on the bench.

President Biden needed support from all fifty Democrats, thus ensuring approval of the nomination with the tie-breaking vote of Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Harris was present on Wednesday to preside over the Senate but her vote would not be needed because of support of the three GOP senators. However, their vote became moot once Joe Manchin gave his thumbs-up. It was only then that Senator Collins, followed by senators Murkowski and Romney, decided to throw in with the majority and be on the winning side.

Republicans don't suffer apostates gladly. Of the GOP House members who voted to impeach Donald Trump after January 6, 2020

in the year since the deadliest attack on the Capitol in centuries, none of the 10 lawmakers have been able to avoid the consequences of a fundamental miscalculation about the direction of their party. The former president is very much the leader of the Republicans, and it is those who stood against him whom the party has thrust into the role of pariah.

Since they cast their impeachment votes on Jan. 13, Representatives Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois have announced their retirements amid death threats from voters and hostility from colleagues. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming has gone from a star in the House Republican leadership to an exiled party gadfly and truth teller.

Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Fred Upton of Michigan have Trump-endorsed primary challengers on their heels and uncertain political futures. Four others — John Katko of New York, Dan Newhouse of Washington, Tom Rice of South Carolina and David Valadao of California — have gone to ground, silent if not silenced, in the apparent hope that the entire episode will be forgotten.

But what has been the reaction of politicians or voters of the Republican Party? Thus far, at least: crickets.  Confirmation of Judge Jackson was, as Joe Biden would have put it at a younger age, "a big f-"- well, you know the rest. For the media and much of the Democratic base, it was a big deal because Ketanji Brown Jackson thus became the first black woman on the Supreme Court.  For those less impressed by an individual's pigment or chromosomal makeup, it is because the Court has gained another liberal voice, and a highly impressive one at that.

Nonetheless, senators Collins, Murkowski, and Romney have not incurred criticism for breaking ranks with their party colleagues and the betting here is that they will face little or none. Those 47 other Republican senators and the GOP members of the House- including such luminaries as Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Paul Gosar- know the score. So does Donald J. Trump, who generally tolerates no disloyalty. They knew the die was cast when Joe Manchin decided to back Jackson.

It's likely that had Manchin declared opposition to the nomination, neither of the three Republican senators who voted for the judge would have done so.  Any Republican who dared to cross the GOP leadership would have provided the Democrat's crucial 50th vote in the Senate, and none would have done so. Senator Manchin ultimately was responsible for three votes aside his own.

Having cast their irrelevant votes, Collins, Murkowski, and Romney will return to voting as right-wing party loyalists.  Joe Manchin will continue to be Joe Manchin, who is no prize. But in the matter of filling out the Court with someone so worthy, the West Virginia senator did come up big as the 50th Senator Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden, and the country needed.

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