Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans tried to shut the committee down Thursday with histrionic fits and manufactured outrage over Democrats’ plans to proceed with subpoenas to GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow and conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo. They failed, walking into a procedural trap of their own making; the committee voted 11-0 to issue the subpoenas.
Republicans got obnoxious right out of the gate, objecting to Chair Dick Durbin’s efforts to finish with some housekeeping matters. There were a few judicial nominees that had already been approved, but needed a third vote because of a procedural technicality GOP senators had attempted to use to kill the nominations. Republicans repeatedly shouted down the clerk who was trying to conduct the roll call votes, and tried to filibuster. Durbin, citing the precedent of former Republican chairs Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham, pushed ahead on the nominees against Republican opposition, resulting in more histrionics from the GOP members.
The Republicans’ goal was to waste two hours of committee time so they could invoke a rule that limits the committee’s sessions to two hours. They had 177 amendments to the subpoenas lined up if they couldn’t waste those two hours on the nominees. But Durbin had a procedural ace up his sleeve and the votes to use it. He suspended the two-hour rule, and all 11 Democrats voted to issue the subpoenas, while the Republicans all walked out.
“They think we're gonna roll over and come back sometime later and try all over again and face the same limitations,” Durbin told Politico after the brouhaha. “You know, there reaches a point where there has to be a vote. They walked out on it. That's their decision.”
Unsurprisingly, Politico reports, Leo issued a statement saying he would refuse to comply. “Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have been destroying the Supreme Court; now they are destroying the Senate,” Leo said. “I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution.” Since he’s handpicked a great many of the federal judges under the last two Republican presidents, he’s probably confident that he’d end up in front of a friendly one if Durbin pushes the matter.
Watch Graham’s meltdown and Durbin’s refusal to allow the committee to be hijacked yet again.
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