Senators are back from spring break, tanned, rested, and ready to spend the next few months working feverishly to accomplish as little as humanly possible—especially on the matter of poor Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Listening to the White House, one might get the impression that Republican members are starting to waffle on Garland as Democrats and pro-confirmation forces hammer them for refusing to, as the Twitter meme goes, #doyourjob. In his Monday briefing this week, Press Secretary Josh Earnest touted the “important progress” made in shaming GOP obstructionists. Their unconstitutional shenanigans are “even more difficult to defend when the only reason you’re refusing to take that vote is because you’re taking orders from the Republican leader,” he charged. “That’s why we’ve seen such a large number of Republican senators come forward and indicate that they are, in fact, prepared to meet with the president’s nominee.” Better yet, there has been “a sea change when it comes to actual meetings” with Garland, said Earnest, pointing to the judge’s Tuesday huddles with Susan Collins and John Boozman and an earlier one with Mark Kirk. Then of course, there are the brave few who have gone so far as to voice support for hearings (Collins, Jerry Moran) or even an up-or-down vote (Kirk). All of this, asserted Earnest, has put the majority on what Republican Whip John Cornyn has called the “slippery slope” to confirmation.
Now that is some impressive spin. I realize Earnest is a well-compensated PR master, but the guy is slinging some top-shelf, the-Nats-are-going-all-the-way, Donald-Trump-Will-Get-the-Mexicans-to-Pay-For-a-Wall level fantasy here. The recess may have provided Democrats a morale-boosting opportunity to raise a little hell in certain GOP senators’ backyards. But Republicans are no closer to backing down now than when they first heard that Nino Scalia had settled down for that great poker game in the sky. If anything, events of the past several days have driven home why McConnell would have a tough time changing course even if he wanted to.