The appearance of a break in the ranks with Senate Republicans over Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, seems to have turned out to be just that–an appearance. Yes, over a quarter of Republican senators are meeting with Garland, but no discernible movement can be gauged thus far. It did have the rumor mill going as to whether Senate Republicans might budge on the matter; I guess we can say those innuendos have been settled.
Today, CNN’s Manu Raju said that Democrats had hoped for mass defections during the two-week recess in which voters would bring such unbearable pressure to bear on Republicans that they would change their course. That wasn’t the case–and the climate isn’t as poisonous as the left had hoped for on this front (via WaPo):
The Democratic activists pushing for the confirmation of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee measure their efforts by the numbers: more than 400 newspaper editorials, several dozen live protests and 1.5 million petition signatures urging Republican senators to take up Merrick Garland’s nomination.
But this, too, can be measured: As of Monday, 52 senators oppose a hearing for Garland, let alone an up-or-down vote, before voters choose Obama’s successor in November.
The all-out Democratic advocacy blitz during the two-week recess ending Monday has produced no discernible impact in the arena that really matters: the Senate Republican caucus.
Only two of 54 Republican senators say they favor hearings. And two other senators who previously supported hearings reversed their positions under pressure from conservative activists, indicating that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has so far been extremely successful in holding together the Republican blockade.
Roll Call added that two more GOP senators are planning on meeting with Garland, but, again, reiterated that no movement is being made:
He [Garland] will meet this week with two more Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and John Boozman of Arkansas, as Republican leadership in the chamber holds strong on its pledge to not hold a hearing or a vote on the nomination. Opponents believe that the next president, not Obama, should nominate Scalia's successor.
Collins and Boozman will bring Garland's meetings with Republican senators to three. He met last Tuesday with Sen. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, a vulnerable Republican in an uphill battle for re-election in November.
…[T]he fundamentals surrounding the high court fight remain essentially unchanged as senators return to Washington this week. Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are as insistent as ever that there will be no hearings or votes on Garland this year, regardless of how many meetings GOP senators have with the nominee or how many protests Democrats stage.
Indeed, the tug-of-war shows no sign of abating: Democrats plan to ramp up pressure through a series of messaging events and one-on-one meetings designed to keep Garland and obstinate Republicans in the headlines.
While Democrats have nudged more than a dozen Senate Republicans toward meeting with Garland, it appears only three GOP senators will have done so by the end of next week. On Friday, one of the three GOP senators who had said Garland deserves a confirmation hearing — Jerry Moran of Kansas — backtracked after a firestorm of criticism from the right. The other two are the most moderate Republicans in the chamber: Maine's Susan Collins and Illinois' Mark Kirk, who faces the longest odds of getting reelected this year of any senator in the country.
Aside from Kirk, other vulnerable GOP members have not bent — an indication, supporters of McConnell’s strategy say, that the issue isn’t at politically perilous as Democrats are making it out to be.
"Liberal groups lost this fight 24 years ago the moment Joe Biden walked onto the Senate floor and proclaimed there would be no hearings or votes for a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of a presidential election. They lost it when Chuck Schumer echoed those sentiments 8 years ago. They lost this fight a couple of weeks ago when even the New York Times said Merrick Garland would create the most liberal Supreme Court in over 50 years.
Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network said that the notion of Republican disunity in this SCOTUS fight is “wishful thinking,” while noting that for the Obama White House to claim that they’re not playing politics in this Supreme Court battle shows “monumental chutzpah” on their part.
For President Obama, the first president to have voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, to claim he is not playing politics with the Court takes monumental chutzpah.
No amount of spin or gimmicks is going to change this.
The White House's attempt to manufacture Republican disunity is engaging in wishful thinking and confusing courtesy with weakness.
On the contrary, we have first-hand accounts of strong grassroots support for Senator Grassley at his events during the recess, and polls repeatedly show the American people don’t want a liberal-dominated Supreme Court created by a lame duck president who can’t be held accountable by voters. President Obama will not deny the American people a voice in choosing the next justice through their votes for the next president.
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told radio host and political commentator Hugh Hewitt that there aren't any real cracks in the GOP's opposition to the president's nominee, adamantly saying that there will be no hearings or votes regarding the Garland nomination.