Some people are ambidextrous. Harry Reid is ambioratory. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth.
This past week one of Sen. Reid’s staffers penned an op-ed column that ran under his name in The Washington Post on the topic of replacing the late, great, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died only days earlier.
The Democratic Senate minority leader took umbrage with something the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said shortly after Scalia was found dead at a West Texas hunting resort. McConnell said the American people should have a voice in the replacement process, meaning no new justice should be confirmed until the next president is seated, rather than allow lame-duck Obama to nominate someone like his two liberal rubber stamps on the court — Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
Reid countered that the American people voiced their opinions by twice electing Obama president and handing him the constitutional power to nominate Supreme Court justices.
“That is how our system works and has worked for more than 200 years,” the op-ed proclaims. “Until now, even through all the partisan battles of recent decades, the Senate’s constitutional duty to give a fair and timely hearing and a floor vote to the president’s Supreme Court nominees has remained inviolable. This Republican Senate would be the first in history to abdicate that vital duty.”
A couple of days later Republicans McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, took to the same pages of the same newspaper to remind the same senator who had lectured them days earlier of what he had said in 2005 on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
According to a C-SPAN transcript of that speech, Reid chided President George W. Bush for rewriting the Constitution and reinventing reality when he said two days earlier that the Senate had a duty to promptly consider each nominee, debate their qualifications and give them an up-or-down vote.
“Referring to the president’s words, duty to whom?” Reid asked rhetorically back then. “The radical right who see within their reach the destruction of America’s mainstream values. Certainly not duty to the tenets of our Constitution or to the American people who are waiting for progress and promise, not partisanship and petty debates.
“The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.”
Reid later lectured, “The Senate is not a rubber stamp for the executive branch. Rather, we are the one institution where the minority has the voice and ability to check the power of the majority.”
Fast forward to this past week’s op-ed in the Post. Reid concluded his thundering accusation against Republicans by saying, “Pursuing their radical strategy in a quixotic quest to deny the basic fact that the American people elected President Obama — twice — would rank among the most rash and reckless actions in the history of the Senate. And the consequences will reverberate for decades.”
We seem to recall that by 2005 Bush had been elected twice, but efforts to circumvent his high court appointees seem not to reverberate a single decade later.
It is just as we have come to expect from Harry Reid and his ilk — politics first, last and always. No argument is so compelling that it can’t be reversed, refuted or abandoned. Reid says Obama will nominate someone in two weeks.
If McConnell’s call to give the American people a voice in Scalia’s successor sounds familiar, perhaps it is because Reid’s Democratic Senate colleague Chuck Schumer said in 2007, two years before the end of Bush’s second term:
“For the rest of this president’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this: We should reverse the presumption of confirmation. The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another (John) Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another (Samuel) Alito. Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.”
Reid, Schumer, then-Sen. Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden all voted to filibuster Alito and Roberts.
All ambioratory and hypocritical.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at email@example.com. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.