Can You Advise if You’ve Already Consented?
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Do Senate Republicans even need to wait for an actual Supreme Court nominee? Their comments in recent days have indicated that just about any old Jane Doe will do.
Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, signed off on the nominee — whoever it may end up being — four days ago.
“There is a clear choice on the future of the Supreme Court between the well-qualified and conservative jurist President Trump will nominate and I will support, and the liberal activist Joe Biden will nominate and Cal Cunningham will support,” he said in a statement on Saturday, referring to his November opponent.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, went even further, promising that the yet-to-be-named nominee would win approval from his committee and the full Senate before Election Day.
“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” he said in a Fox News interview on Monday. “We’re going to move forward in the committee, we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election. Now, that’s the constitutional process.”
Mr. Graham might want to dig out his copy of the Constitution.
As every civics student knows, the Senate is designed to be a check on the president. Article II, Section 2 awards the Senate the power of advice and consent — to consider the president’s appointments to the cabinet, federal bench, foreign service and other top government jobs before approving or rejecting them.
That’s why the Senate holds confirmation hearings, a process designed to allow legislators to question the president’s picks and make an informed decision on their qualifications.
If the outcome is preordained, the hearings held by Mr. Graham’s committee are simply a matter of going through the motions. By laying out the result before hearings are even scheduled, Mr. Graham is effectively making a mockery of the Senate’s constitutional powers and his own role in the institution.
Now, I’ve been through a few of these hearings before, so I’m hardly naïve to the ways of Supreme Court votes. I know, just as well as everyone in Washington and probably all of America at this point, that it is likely that nearly every Republican will vote for Mr. Trump’s nominee, just as almost every Democrat supported President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court picks.
Republicans do have a pretty good sense of whom Mr. Trump may select. Earlier this month, he updated his list of potential Supreme Court picks — another breaking of a norm. No other presidential candidate has ever released a list of possible picks, fearing it could influence those judges’ future decisions and inject partisanship into the bench.
Mr. Trump has also made clear that he wants a ninth justice confirmed quickly because he believes the Supreme Court will decide the outcome of the election. The president’s thinking is that a conservative justice would favor him in any kind of electoral dispute.
“I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that,” he told reporters today. “Just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.”
So, the politics are pretty clear. Mr. Trump wants to increase his chances of winning the election. Mr. Graham and Mr. Tillis, who face their own tough re-election races, want to hold their seats by energizing the president’s base. (Worth noting: In that Fox News interview, Mr. Graham repeatedly injected requests to contribute to his campaign between his comments on the court.)
But it’s a curious political calculation, in a way. Both Mr. Graham and Mr. Tillis are wagering that accomplishing the conservative movement’s decades-old goal of pushing the Supreme Court to the right is worth undercutting their own constitutional power.
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Every week through Election Day, The New York Times will bring you dispatches from the swing states to help explain how voters see the race and what issues are driving it.
PHILADELPHIA — Mr. Trump may be a shoo-in to win deep-red Lebanon County, Pa., where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by two to one. But that hasn’t stopped some lifelong Republicans there from supporting Mr. Biden in response to what they see as the president’s divisive and damaging conduct.
Mr. Trump has failed to unite the country, said Tom Carmany, a retired physician and registered Republican from Annville, about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. “All I see is division, and I see chaos, hate, violence, inflammatory rhetoric, there’s stuff on Twitter all the time,” said Mr. Carmany, 83, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “It’s like dealing with a teenager.”
Duncan MacLean, 71, another retired physician and a former Republican, has been working phone banks for the Democrats this year. He said the voters he called appeared firmly decided and deeply divided. “Trump is either ‘the best president ever’ or a ‘depraved sociopath,’” he said. “Biden is either ‘an experienced unifier’ or ‘bowing to progressives too much.’”
There has been no sign that the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has cost him support in the county, Mr. MacLean said. “Any economic anger is directed against the Democratic governor for what people see as heavy-handed business restrictions.”
Republicans say Mr. Trump appears to be running even more strongly in the county this year than in 2016, when he won more than twice as many votes as Hillary Clinton did. Republican voter registrations increased by 1,335 from June 1 to Sept. 15, well ahead of the 282 for the Democrats and 394 for other parties.
“People are feeling a little more enthusiasm this time,” said Linda Jackson, 60, a Republican who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and said she would do so again. She said Lebanon residents were frustrated with Gov. Tom Wolf, who temporarily withheld federal relief funding from the county after its Republican-controlled commission defied his lockdown order in May.
Ms. Jackson, who works as a fund-raiser for a nonprofit, defended Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic. “The president in my opinion thinks outside the box, and he enlisted public-private partnerships to get the equipment, the ventilators, the P.P.E., all the things that we needed on the local level, to combat the virus,” Ms. Jackson said. “And he’s really ramped up this testing for a vaccine. I think he’s done a really good job.”
While Democrats have no expectations that Mr. Biden will win the county, they are working to turn out support in areas like the city of Lebanon that they hope will contribute to a victory in the battleground state.
“We will not win the county, but if we win the city and close the margins in the suburbs, it will help over all in Pennsylvania, so that’s our goal,” said Marilyn Boogaard, founder of Central Pennsylvania United for Biden, a voter registration group.
— Jon Hurdle
Everyone is getting in on the voting P.S.A. action, even exotic dancers in Atlanta. They want voters to “Get Your Booty to the Poll.” (Yay, puns!)
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