EDITORIAL: New court vote is indefensible

York Dispatch editorial board
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

Senate confirmation hearings are underway for the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

That Barrett’s hearings commence less than month after Ginsburg’s death and less than a month before Election Day highlight the stupefying hypocrisy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP brethren — including Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey. This is the crew, recall, who refused to give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland the time of day after he was nominated nine months before Election Day 2016.

“Let the voters decide,” they said then, when stonewalling the nomination was in their interest.

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“Screw the voters,” they say today, when dismissing public sentiment, historical precedent, and any semblance of what the late Sen. John McCain called “regular order” is in their interest.

So as millions of out-of-work Americans continue to wait on a months-delayed, Senate-suffocated second coronavirus relief bill, the high court nomination is instead fast-tracked.

Sadly, Republicans will very likely succeed in this craven maneuver. Senate Democrats have certainly been unable to slow, let alone derail, this runaway train. In fact, it’s telling that McConnell identifies the biggest obstacle not as Democratic opposition but as the coronavirus pandemic.

After all, six Republican senators have either recently been or are still in quarantine and three have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two of them, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding Barrett’s confirmation hearings. And Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has recently been in close proximity to Lee, has refused in recent days to be tested for the coronavirus (a positive diagnosis could jeopardize his ability to lead the hearings).

“We should not be holding this hearing when it’s plainly unsafe to do,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said. Well, duh!

But such wan warnings aren’t going to impede McConnell & Co. Recovering senators have even said they will to return to Washington before the CDC-recommended 14 days to cast their ballots — public health be damned.

Just as unseemly is the matter of a majority of Supreme Court members being nominated by presidents who did not win the popular vote. Coney Barrett would join two previous Trump appointees and a pair nominated by fellow Republican George W. Bush, who, like Trump failed to win the popular vote en route to the White House. (Bush’s picks came during his second term, but that term would not have been possible without the Supreme Court-abetted first term.)

And what of the propriety of seating a judge who will not commit to recusing herself should a decision regarding the election come before her? The man who nominated her has made no secret of his intention to discredit and dispute any electoral outcome that does not go his way.

Finally, that a 6-3 high court majority would spell the end of the Affordable Care Act, Roe vs. Wade-protected abortion rights and a number of other measures that enjoy wide public support goes without saying. It should also go without debating in the Senate.

Arguing over Coney Barrett’s fitness for the bench simply normalizes the brazen power grab Republicans are in the process of enacting.

This isn’t about her record.

This isn’t about her faith.

This isn’t about her position on the issues.

This is about a nomination that should never have been made and should not move forward owing to the proximity of the presidential election.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, have indicated they oppose the nomination on that principle. If they are to be believed, only two additional nay votes could reverse this travesty.

Given Democrats’ inability to exert any influence over how McConnell runs roughshod over the Senate, that’s exactly what it will take.