erik lundegaard

Instead of Feet to the Fire, NPR's Steve Inskeep Gives Sen. Orrin Hatch a Footrub

I'd like it if NPR's “Morning Edition” made me want to throw the radio across the room a little less often. 

This was an exchange this morning between NPR's Steve Inskeep and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) about the hearings for SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch:

INSKEEP: You know that Democrats were very unhappy that President Obama made a Supreme Court nomination last year and Republicans declined to give him a hearing. We have heard, of course, the Republican explanation that it was an election year. But I wonder if I can get you to speak to people who've heard those arguments and just think there has been an injustice here. Why should a Democrat who feels that way give a fair hearing to Neil Gorsuch and not block Senate confirmation?

HATCH: Well, first of all, from the whole history of the country, almost everybody has indicated there should not be a confirmation of a judge during a presidential election year. Joe Biden made that point. You know, this is not unusual. 

“Almost everybody,” Senator? “From the whole history of the country”? “This is not unusual”?

The sad thing isn't that Hatch made this bogus claim again; it's that Steve Inskeep, who's had more than a year to research the matter, didn't ask a proper follow-up. He hasn't done the due diligence for his job that I did on my own on the day Justice Scalia died and the GOP first trotted out this argument. 

Basic facts:

  • In our history, 15 SCOTUS justices have been nominated and approved during election years or during post-election lame-duck periods; most of these (8) occurred during the 19th century.
  • The last justice to be nominated and approved during an election year was Frank Murphy, an FDR pick in January 1940.
  • The last justice nominated but not approved during an election year was then-sitting justice Abe Fortas, whose name LBJ put forth for chief justice upon the retirement of Earl Warren in June 1968. The GOP fillibustered him during a weeklong debate, but he got a vote. What didn't happen back in 1968? No Republican (or Dixiecrat) claimed that presidents shouldn't fill SCOTUS seats during an election year. That was an argument that wasn't made, despite Hatch's assertion today.
  • The last justice to be approved during an election year was Justice Anthony Kennedy in Feb. 1988, whose name was put forth in Nov. 1987.

If it hasn't happened since it's because, well, it hasn't happened. No SCOTUS seat has opened during an election year. Until 2016. And then the GOP, and the press, behaved with a kind of massive collective irresponsibility. 

And it's still going on, Daniel. This was Inskeep's follow-up to Hatch:

INSKEEP: But can you give Democrats who interpret the history differently a reason that they should move forward? Is there a reason it is important for the country that they should look past whatever they believe was wrong in the past?

Good god. Democrats who interpret the history differently? As opposed to, you know, history. Facts. As opposed to Sen. Hatch lying to us again about that history. And once again, thanks to Steve Inskeep, getting away with it. 

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Posted at 12:55 PM on Mon. Mar 20, 2017 in category Politics  

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