The GOP civil war over the Supreme Court

The aging sclerotic elephant of the Republican Party has two tusks. One is for business, large and small, for muddled suburban prejudices and lower taxes, for the Koch brothers and the Cato Institute; the other is given over to those consumed by sincere (if frequently misguided) reaction, opposition to same-sex marriage, drugs, liberal intolerance of religion, and, above all, abortion.

It is not the case that each of these sub-parties rejects the fundamental tenants of the other (though abandoning or at least ignoring the yucky causes looks increasingly like a goer for blue-state Republican hopefuls); rather, they disagree about the fundamental importance of each. It is a question, above all, of priorities.

These tactical disagreements between the two groups have come to a head over the question of whom President Trump should appoint to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Each side has thrown its weight behind a candidate: the Chamber of Commerce types behind Bret Kavanaugh, an appeals court judge in Maryland and veteran of Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel investigation; the social conservatives behind Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge and longtime professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. As NPR reported recently, the rival camps have been engaged in a campaign of defamation, leaking, and open vitriol.

What is most remarkable is not the combat itself but what it reveals about the intensity of the two sides’ disagreement. While it would be going too far to say that Kavanaugh is just as likely to rule to overturn Roe v. Wade as Barrett would be, there is very little in the former’s record to suggest that he is hostile to the pro-life cause. Indeed, he dissented last year in a case involving a woman in the custody of immigration authorities who sought an abortion. But he is better known for his willingness to overturn federal regulations, especially those involving environmental protections. On paper there need not be any essential tension between these two tendencies in the same man. But somehow both sides seem to think there is.

Likewise, donor-class sputtering about the potential difficulties of confirming Barrett seems absurd. Democrats will not miss the opportunity to throw a fit about Trump’s judicial appointment no matter who it is. In any case, it doesn’t matter. The Republicans need only 50 votes to confirm Kennedy’s successor, and they will have them even if Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who voted to confirm Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals last year, decides to perform an awkward about-face. As many as three red-state Democrats are likely to cave, and there is always Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaker vote. The only way to make sense of the cosmopolitan GOP’s opposition to Barrett is to assume that they think anyone so beloved of knuckle-dragging but, alas, electorally necessary pro-lifers must have half a heart for the poor, something that could cost them down the line.

The real interest here is not the airing of these grievances, but the chance to see which side Trump …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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