This case is different

Now wait just a second here.

On Friday night, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, declared: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

There was an outcry, accusing McConnell of hypocrisy. When the conservative Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, also an election year, McConnell refused to act on Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the opening. The seat remained vacant until after Trump’s victory.

McConnell argues this case is different because in 2016 the president was Democratic and the Senate majority was Republican but now the same party controls both. His opposite number, Chuck Schumer, and the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, instantly rejected the view.

What are we talking about? “This case is different” in what sense? On the merits, or on the basis of “we can crush you”? On law and precedent and fairness, or on because we can? Obviously the power balance is very different, but the case is not.

Obama wrote in a Medium post: “Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the supreme court before a new president was sworn in.

“A basic principle of the law – and of everyday fairness – is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle. As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican senators are now called to apply that standard.”

But Republicans have made it all too clear that they don’t care about rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy. They care about returning women to the prison of unwanted pregnancy, pulverizing the Voting Rights Act, gutting environmental regulations, making the rich ever richer.

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