Why is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so hell-bent on seeking a vote on Brett Kavanaugh, possibily as soon as this weekend?
Why did Missouri Republicans so vigorously fight the placement of the Clean Missouri initiative on the November ballot?
In both cases, it’s about power and exercising it before it slips away.
Lots of Americans are puzzled about McConnell’s announcement this week, even before the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, that he wanted a quick vote on Kavanaugh.
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What’s the rush? This is, after all, for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Common sense suggests a go-slow approach.
But the Senate majority leader is all about the push-push-push. He wants it done, and he was confident prehearing that he’d get Kavanaugh confirmed.
“We’re going to be moving forward. I’m confident we’re going to win …” he said.
What McConnell is concerned about is the Kavanaugh nomination blowing up and the possibility that Republicans will have to rush forward with another nominee for confirmation before a new Congress arrives in January.
A remote possibility exists that the Democrats could seize a Senate majority in November. That remains unlikely, but given President Donald Trump’s volatility, anything could happen. McConnell knows full well what a Democratic majority would mean for future court nominees from President Trump.
They likely wouldn’t go anywhere. In the short term, Democrats would surely do the big stall should the Kavanaugh nomination falter — and it should following Ford’s sterling presentation Thursday.
Democrats have only to look back to the Merrick Garland fiasco of 2016 for their motivation.
With the direction of the Supreme Court in the balance, Republicans are understandably desperate to quickly get a nominee confirmed. No wonder McConnell is impatient.
But there’s another factor at work: GOP turnout in November.
“There’s a risk that, if we don’t … have a vote on Judge Kavanaugh, I think there are a lot of folks who would otherwise vote in the midterm elections who may not vote,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, one of McConnell’s top deputies, said.
Back in Missouri, Republicans just completed a series of legal maneuvers aimed at getting the Clean Missouri initiative off the ballot in November. Their biggest worry is a change in the way the state would redraw its legislative districts every 10 years.
This is an arcane, backroom proceeding that draws little public scrutiny. But Republicans have adroitly used it to produce veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly. Now, under Clean Missouri, Republicans would lose control of that process at the precise moment they are set to dominate it like never before.
Under Clean Missouri, redistricting would be handed off to a “nonpartisan state demographer” who would draft the maps in a bid to wring the partisanship out of it. The state auditor, now a Democrat who’s expected to win in November, would put forward nominees for the demographer’s post.
GOP authority would be dramatically watered down.
Make no mistake: Clean Missouri is going to pass easily after the state Supreme Court rejected the latest challenge.
Politics is about power, and Republicans have a lot of it. But they are on the brink of seeing much of it fade away.
That explains a lot of their recent behavior.