Friday night we received the devastating news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or as she had come to be known, “The Notorious RBG”, had died. A young 87, she had overcome sexual discrimination, religious bigotry, and numerous bouts of cancer with persistence, strength, and intelligence. Despite having graduated at the top of her class, she couldn’t get a job after graduating until she finally broke through, rising to become not just a legal giant but an icon. She will be terribly missed.
A common political tactic when under siege is to muddy the waters and throw confusion on everything. This is a tactic that is being employed now in Washington, D.C.; there are two major situations brewing and both need our action and attention.
While Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein managed to not get fired on Monday, the meeting he has on Thursday with Trump could be when his luck runs out. The reason why we should care what happens with Rosenstein, who remains an avowed Republican, is he is Robert Mueller’s boss and if Rosenstein goes, Trump will probably replace him with Noel Francisco. Francisco should scare us all; he is a hardline conservative who is a strong proponent of executive power who has already made statements supporting the president’s ability to remove Mueller and end the probe into Trump’s activities.
There is currently legislation ready to be brought to the floor of the Senate which has language that would protect Robert Mueller’s investigation, but has not been introduced for a vote because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Regardless of how Rosenstein’s meeting with Trump goes, we should all be calling our Senators asking them to put pressure on McConnell to allow a vote on the legislation protecting the investigation of Robert Mueller and his team which has already led to indictments against several of Trump’s surrogates.
Another situation is the status of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for the U.S. Supreme Court. There is a hearing also scheduled for Thursday to hear Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while in high school. Since the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are all men, they have chosen to avoid the optics of having men question Ford by hiring a “female assistant” (McConnell’s words) to handle the questioning of Ford. More alarming is the Republicans are scheduling a vote on Kavanaugh in the Senate early Friday morning; apparently the Republicans don’t feel they need much time to reflect on what comes out at the hearing, or perhaps they are afraid yet more accusers will come forward (so far it’s three known accusers). To date, the Republicans in the Senate and the White House have resisted allowing the F.B.I. to investigate the allegations.
The action item here is to contact all of your elected officials but particularly our Senators asking them to pressure McConnell for a delay in the vote until the F.B.I. has been allowed to do their job and provide an investigation of a candidate up for a lifetime appointment. Considering the Republicans’ successful stonewalling of Merrick Garland in the last year of President Obama’s term where the Republican Senate Judiciary members refused to even meet with Garland let alone hold hearings to consent, it seems incredibly hypocritical for them now to blame Democrats who are asking for a normal investigation of a candidate. Kavanaugh worked in the George W. Bush White House and had several thousand pages of documents withheld from scrutiny of the Senate panel. Kavanaugh also worked with Kenneth Starr during the Clinton impeachment process and said, “The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me.” If this is the standard he holds others to, is it not right that he is subjected to normal levels of investigation and refusing to answer questions because they are too personal; interesting considering it was Kavanaugh who added questions to be put to President Clinton that allowed everyone to know how he used a cigar.
The fact that both of these events are scheduled to overlap is not an accident; while we as Democrats should not abandon the principles that we feel put us above the tactics used by the Republicans in Washington, we should not waver from demanding a just process and equal disclosure on a consistent basis from the people who are supposed to be representing our best interests. When the Republican Senate leadership heard there were more accusers of Kavanaugh, their initial reactions were focused on political expediency and trying to rush the vote, not on what those allegations might say about the candidate they were trying push through or whether that candidate was suited for the position. We are right, they are wrong, and we need to make the American people see that.
Here we are again; another deadline and another possible government shutdown. The common factor clearly is the lack of coherent leadership in the Republican majority coupled with the changing goalposts courtesy of the current occupant in the White House.
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is standing firm on her insistence the budget deal includes resolution for the Dreamers, the DACA recipients who have become a political football thanks to the maneuverings of House Speaker, Paul Ryan. Because of this there are now three distinct Republican positions on immigration, outlined below:
- Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has promised to have debate on immigration as part of the deal he struck with Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader. Supposedly, this is scheduled to take place next week.
- President Trump has a different position which has changed several times, but the most recent iteration is he is only willing to discuss DACA recipients if there is also a large curtailing of family reunification (he calls it chain immigration) and doing away with the immigration lottery system. This system was set up to increase the diversity of countries the United States takes in and has largely benefited immigrants from Africa. Generally it is a 10-year process with close vetting, but Trump described it as if that wasn’t the case.
- Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has a position that falls between these two and is predicated moment-by-moment by what will keep him Speaker of the House.
The impact of this indecision and the right hand not knowing what the right-right hand is doing has led to the predicament we are in tonight. As of this writing the House is scrambling to secure votes which will allow it to pass, a process complicated by having opponents on the far right and the left. The Freedom Caucus (conservatives in the House) resent the increase in spending on anything other than the military, and the left opposes the Senate agreement unless it addresses the DACA issue with assurances similar to those in the Senate.
For the average reader, the impact will be felt in the tumbling stock market, anxiety on the part of the DACA recipients who may be forced to leave the only country they have really known to go “back” to a country they don’t, and the continuing belief that the Republicans who hold the majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency are still more interested in party politics than the interests of the constituents they were sent to Washington, D.C. to represent.