The Senate is on a crash course to confirm another illegitimate Supreme Court nominee Monday evening, having stayed in over the weekend for procedural votes. That's a sense of urgency from Mitch McConnell totally lacking on responding to COVID-19, even while we're seeing record-breaking new infections and a bleak winter outlook. They voted on cloture Sunday night, 51-48, to advance the nomination to a final vote Monday evening.
Vice President Mike Pence is planning on taking a victory lap and presiding over the Senate Monday night, despite the fact that he is at the center of yet another COVID-19 outbreak in the White House. Senate Democrats have written to him asking him to keep his damn coronavirus-exposed self the hell away. "Your presence alone could be very dangerous to many people," they wrote, to them and to "all the truly essential staff—both Democratic and Republican" who have to be there to make the U.S. Capitol function. Like he cares. In fact, the White House is planning another superspreader event for the ceremonial swearing in of Barrett either Monday night following the vote or Tuesday.
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McConnell couldn't control his glee over the prospect of this vote. Over the fact that he has engineered this takeover. “We’ve made an important contribution to the future of this country,” he said after the cloture vote. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” That's a lot of bravado for a man who is about to lose his Senate majority. He's banking on Democrats being unwilling to reform the courts. He's wrong.
Democrats demonstrated their unity against this nomination by holding the floor all night. It couldn't change the outcome of the event, but it demonstrates a united front against McConnell's unprecedented and unprincipled power grab. Even Independent Sen. Angus King is on board with expanding the court, albeit reluctantly. "I don't want to have to do that," he said on the floor Sunday, "but if all of this rule-breaking is taking place, what does the majority expect? What do they expect?"
They need to expect to lose the majority, the White House, and the court. With Barrett, Republican presidents have claimed 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court justices, while they have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. That's called minoritarian rule, which McConnell and the Republican Party have now embraced, along with what is essentially apartheid to maintain it. They can't and won't win the popular vote, so they have to take over every institution they can by cheating, by subverting the rule of law, and by packing the courts with ideologues who will allow them to do it. That ends with this nomination.
Democrats are ready. "McConnell is clearly betting against the Democrats mustering the resolve to ever alter the structure of the court," Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, told NBC News. “Given how far the movement to add seats has already come in just two years, and how likely it is for this 6-3 court to produce rulings threatening progressive priorities, I think it's an unwise bet,” he said. Fallon is a former aide to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, so he's not just talking out his hat. “It’s a travesty for the Senate, a travesty for the country, and it will be an inerasable stain on this Republican majority forevermore,” Schumer said on the floor. It will fuel a backlash.
Understanding that, embattled Republican Sen. Susan Collins both voted with Democrats against cloture, and will vote against Barrett. Not on the merits of the nominee, she stressed, but because the vote is coming so close to the election. That's Collins trying to split the baby—assure Republicans that she's totally on board with this ideologically, but tell Democrats she's all about fairness. A little too little and way too late for Collins to pull this one out. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is no better. She voted against cloture as well, in muted opposition to the timing of the confirmation. But she's going to be a yes on confirmation. Murkowski is running for reelection in 2022, so you can bet that's a maneuver to stave off another challenge from the right in Alaska. That's her setting herself up to be the Collins of 2022—the backlash from the left will be swift and massive.