U.S. Politics

Chuck Grassley On Judicial Confirmations: ‘Let’s Do Our Jobs.’ (But That Was 2005)


While discussing the confirmation of judges, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had a message for his fellow senators: “Let’s do our jobs.” But that was 2005.

Eleven years ago, with a Republican in the White House, Grassley was emphatic that the Senate act quickly on the president’s judicial nominations, telling colleagues that slowing down the confirmation process was “like being a bully on the schoolyard playground.”

According to Grassley in 2005, for the Senate to do its job, George W. Bush’s nominees would have to receive up-or-down votes. Today, apparently, doing his job as chairman of the Judiciary Committee does not even include holding hearings on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

One wonders what 2005 Chuck Grassley would say to his 2016 self. In April of that year, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Grassley told host Chris Matthews that “every nominee should have an opportunity to have an up-or-down vote.”

That same month in a statement on his website titled “Talking Judges to Death,” the Iowa senator wrote, “It’s time to make sure all judges receive a fair vote on the Senate floor.”

Grassley continued to make his case during a May speech on the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “It’s high time to make sure all judges receive a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”

In the same speech, he complained that he and his colleagues were being “denied an opportunity to carry out their constitutional responsibility,” telling the Senate, “That is simply not right. The Constitution demands an up-or-down vote. Fairness demands an up-or-down vote.”

Grassley charged that Democrats wanted “to grind the judicial process to a halt for appellate court nominees so they can fill the bench with individuals who have been rubberstamped by leftwing extreme groups.”

In 2005 Democrats opposed a small number of nominees based on their extreme ideologies. In contrast, Grassley and today’s Republicans have made it clear that they will oppose anyone nominated by Obama, no matter their qualifications or ideology, essentially seeking to undo the 2012 presidential election.

Today the only rationale for Grassley’s own intransigence is fear of the far right and their demand that Republicans obstruct the president’s Supreme Court appointment.

Grassley’s advocacy for the Senate doing its job did not stop in the spring of 2005. In September of that year, after President Bush appointed John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Grassley cited Alexander Hamilton in claiming that “the purpose of our activities here of confirming people for the courts” was “to make sure that people who were not qualified did not get on the courts. In other words, only qualified people get appointed to the courts and that political hacks do not get appointed to the courts.”

He noted that “maybe there is some historian around who will say Grassley has it all wrong.”

In that same speech he stated that the president “had a mandate to appoint whom he wanted appointed, as long as they were not political hacks and as long as they were qualified” and that the president had “primacy in the appointments to the Supreme Court.”

In January 2006, with the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, Grassley put out a press release that once again cited Alexander Hamilton:

The Constitution provides that the President nominates a Supreme Court Justice, and the Senate provides its advice and consent, with an up or down vote.  In Federalist 66, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “it will be the office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint.  There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate.  They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose – they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made.”

Citations of Hamilton, calls for the Senate to do its job, discussions of “constitutional responsibility” are now a faded memory.

If Chuck Grassley did recall his words from that year, perhaps he would remember his statement that “in my town meetings across Iowa, I hear from people all the time, why aren’t the judges being confirmed?” He went on to claim, “I hear from Iowans all the time that they want to see these nominees treated in a fair manner, and they want to see an up-or-down vote.”

Home for the Senate’s Easter recess, he is now facing these questions from constituents like Randy Waagmeester, who told his senator at a town hall, “It’s not fair for this man not to get a hearing.”

Another of Grassley’s constituents, Glenda Schrick, told her senator, “There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says we can’t have a hearing and then vote yea or nay, so that we don’t constantly have it thrown at us as Republicans that all we say is ‘no.’”

However, these interactions will be few for the Iowa senator. According to the Des Moines Register “only three of his 19 planned events are publicly announced town hall meetings — and they’re happening in the three most heavily Republican counties in the state in terms of voter registration.”

Instead of running from these challenges, Grassley should simply follow his own admonition from more than a decade ago, come back to Washington, tell his Republican colleagues “let’s do our jobs” and get to work confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Ari Rabin-Havt

U.S. Politics

Grassley’s Risky Supreme Court Gamble

attribution: NONE


The longtime senator’s decision to block a qualified nominee from receiving a hearing in his committee is rubbing his constituents the wrong way.

Sen. Chuck Grassley is feeling the heat from back home.

He has kept his seat for the last 36 years by staying very in tune with his Iowa constituents, but as he gears up for re-election to a seventh six-year term, he is running into unexpected headwinds over his refusal to grant due process to anyone President Obama might nominate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Scalia’s death last month.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that’s his perogative, but it’s a choice that has perplexed those who respect the 82-year-old as an “institutionalist” and can’t believe total obstruction is his preferred way.

It is, however, the preference of Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who appears to have made the calculation that stonewalling an Obama appointee is better politics in the age of Trump than having hearings and holding a vote.

Congressional sources expect President Obama to announce his nominee very soon and certainly before he leaves for Cuba—and deliberately while the Senate is in session—so there’s plenty of video of Republican senators running away from the nominee.

If the GOP’s wall of opposition has any chance of cracking, it will take a sustained campaign of psychological warfare on the part of the White House and congressional Democrats, with Grassley as the prime target. He’s getting hammered in the editorial pages in Iowa, and now faces a potentially strong challenge from former state agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor Patty Judge, who says Grassley’s refusal to hold hearings is tantamount to advocating government dysfunction.

On Tuesday, just days after announcing, Judge turned up at the Senate Democrats caucus luncheon, an invitation meant to show Grassley how seriously Democrats take her candidacy. Meanwhile, on an almost daily basis, Democratic leader Harry Reid takes to the Senate floor railing against Grassley. During one recent appearance, Reid stood next to a large placard with a quote from a Des Moines Register editorial, which read, “This isn’t the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew.”

Grassley has returned fire, casting the attacks as “tantrums,” but for someone who has experienced little opposition over his long career, he is visibly annoyed at being in the crosshairs.

At a meeting last week of the Judiciary Committee, he repeated his refusal to hold hearings and said he would not bow to pressure. He said Democrats who float names of potential justices are playing “raw politics.”

He’s right about that, and it’s only going to get more intense. With Trump on his way to clinching the GOP nomination, the Senate Majority PAC began airing an ad in New Hampshire where Republican Kelly Ayotte is up for re-election saying, “Donald Trump wants the Senate to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy so he can choose the nominee next year, and Senator Kelly Ayotte is right there to help.”

Grassley is new to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, taking the helm just a little over a year ago after serving on the committee for 26 years. As a lifelong farmer and a non-lawyer, he’s always been hyper-sensitive that he’s seen as neither smart enough to be running the prestigious committee or tough enough to stand up to leadership. Though moving steadily to the right since the rise of the Tea Party, he is often on the list of senators that might be gettable and could be in the mix on a deal, but then he rarely sees it through to deliver in the end, bowing to Tea Party pressure or pressure by the leadership.

In his first interviews with Iowa reporters, Grassley appeared open to following the normal confirmation process, but then McConnell “really squeezed him,” says a former Senate aide.

It was McConnell’s idea that all 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, including the chairman, sign a letter to him declaring there would be no hearings. As one of the Senate’s old “bulls,” Grassley didn’t like the leadership infringing on his power. And he didn’t like the way McConnell got out front saying there would be no hearings, forcing Grassley to walk back some of his early comments. It made him look like he was following someone else’s orders, always a sensitive issue for a senator who runs on his independence.

Grassley is paying the price for what looks to voters like kneejerk intransigence and naked politics.

“I understand McConnell’s logic, but it’s not accounting for the culture of Iowa,” says the former staffer.


U.S. Politics

The 10 Worst Moments of Disrespect Towards President Obama

The 10 Worst Moments of Disrespect Towards President ObamaI was thinking  how a majority of  far right-wingers in Congress and local politicians of that ilk, have disrespected President Obama and his family in a manner that no other president of the United States has ever had to endure.

It’s not only the usual suspects, birthers and various right-wing weirdos, but also from elected officials, Judges and Fox News.  In fact, after we had finally gotten over Rep. Joe Wilson’s  “You lie!” comment while President Obama was giving his 2011 State of the Union address, those politicians and TV personalities seem to ramp up their attack machine on the president in insidious ways.

The following article was published in January 2012 but is just as relevant now…

Politics 365 – Lauren Victoria Burke

It starts from the Superiority Syndrome: People acting as if they’re more important than a U.S. President — when they clearly are not.  To fingers in the face.  To people questioning his already established and proven citizenship.

The incidents of disrespect towards President Obama continue.

When people criticize Administration policy, that’s just politics.  But several incidents directed at this President appear to find new lows.  Of course, people can disagree with the President. But, why can’t people respect the Office of the Presidency?

The very public nature of disrespect towards President Obama is noteworthy.  Did Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) have to conduct business with the President in front of reporters?  Wasn’t there a better time and place? Would a visiting leader from a foreign country be greeted with a finger in his face by a Governor? If not, why would it happen to the leader of our own country? Could a hockey goalie have executed a quiet no-show for a White House invitation honoring his team? See Facebook for the answer on that one.

It wasn’t the end of the world when Speaker John Boehner refused the President’s date to speak to a joint session on jobs in September 2011.  And yes, the White House picked that date to steal attention from a GOP debate.  But like so many moments of disrespect towards the 44th President: No one can find another example in American history where a U.S. President requested a date to address Congress and was refused. Can anyone find another incident like the Brewer one?  That the list below can even be compiled is telling.

1. The birther fiasco (2009-2011). No evidence. No proof. No documentation.  But the story traveled on for years. Yes, Hawaii is part of the United States of America.

2. “You lie” (Sept. 2009). That any individual — no less a member of Congress watching a U.S. President during a joint session on live national television — is so lacking in self control that this moment was made possible is incredible — even in an age of incivility. Remember this happened only nine months into Obama’s presidency and is another “we can’t remember that ever happening ever before” moment. Close your eyes and pretend Rep. Maxine Waters was Wilson doing this to President Bush and image the reaction.

3. Signs of the Tea Party (July 2010) and Naked Racism (April 2011).  Anyone remember California GOP official Marilyn Davenport’s racist e-mail? Did she ever resign for that?  I remember all the criticism of the NAACP – particularly from Black Republicans — for their “Tea Party resolution” of 2010.  Where was that indignation regarding what can be viewed in this video? Click here.

4. Donald “unchecked ego” Trump inflames birther fiasco, media assists (April 2011). The mouth of Donald Trump is a powerful thing when joined with a 24-hour cable news cycle desperate for viewers.  That news organizations invited Trump on the air unchallenged with zero proof of what he was saying speaks volumes on the state of journalism.  That Trump was completely comfortable demanding that a U.S. President “show him his papers” displays a superiority complex that exists among those who can’t accept someone they view as “lesser” in a position of power over them.

5. Newt Gingrich’s “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior” comment (Sept 2010). Even Washington Post columnist and conservative thinker George Will slammed this attempt to define the President as “foreign.” Never mind the facts: President Obama wasn’t reared by his father in Kenya with whom he spent only a month of his 50 years on this earth. The strategy to define the President as a “foreign” or “alien” being was started by Sarah Palin in 2008.

6. One of the underlying premises of disrespect towards the President is that he can be ordered around and dictated to like he’s Tipi the laundry boy.  The presumption that a U.S. President can be ordered around is a new phenomenon that appears to have gotten underway around January 2009.  From big mouth Congressmen to millionaires with nothing to do, you name it — they all inherently believe they can order President Obama around.  At least Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an actual leader of something. Regardless, read this and ask yourself if you think this would have happened to Presidents Bush, Reagan or Clinton.

7. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer puts her finger in the President’s face (January 2012).The photo speaks for itself.  Of course there are strong political disagreements between President Obama and Gov. Brewer.  But is it just possible there was a better time and place for this conversation?  Brewer said she felt “a little threatened” by President Obama. Please.

8. GOP House, prompted by Tea Party — refuses to raise debt ceiling (Aug 2011).Sounds like this was just hardball politics right? Let’s review the facts: The debt ceiling had been raised 69 times since 1962 without incident.  Seven times during Bush II and 18 times during Reagan.  Suddenly, with President Obama, a shiny new precedent is set with regard to raising the debt ceiling.  Another never before seen incident is born.

9. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Publicly Announces His Top Political Priority (Dec 2010). McConnell wants the President out of office?  No news there, but, wait, there’s more to it. “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term,” Sen. McConnell told the Heritage Foundation.  Of course the Senate Republican Leader doesn’t want the President to be re-elected.  But what’s with the public announcement? In July 2010 McConnell acknowledged his single most important political goal: President Obama being a one-term President. Again: In public and on national television.

10. Speaker Boehner refuses speech date request (September 2011). No it is not the end of the world.  Of course, the White House intentionally wanted to step on a GOP debate that same night. But, this is yet another first in American history. Once again, no one can find another instance where a President of the United States requested a date to address Congress and was refused.

Bonus:   Deadbeat dad and probable one-termer thinks his presence before the President actually matters and needs to tell everyone (Sept 2011).  The disrespect isn’t that probable one term Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) wouldn’t attend the President’s Sept. 8 speech. The disrespect is that Rep. Walsh actually believed that everyone knowing he wasn’t attending was important.  That he needed to announce he would not attend on national television, as if anyone cared, was yet another delusional superiority episode.  That proudly showing public disrespect towards the President is a winning strategy in some political circles reveals a lot

Chuck Grassley calling the president stupid.