God I love it when the Democrats show up like they actually want to play the game. Chuck Schumer comes out all bad ass yesterday, darkly threatening McConnell and giving him a taste of his own medicine. And then today, it was Nancy Pelosi’s turn to come out full Rambo with her own dark threats of secret actions. But there’s just one sticking point. Confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is purely a Senate procedure, so what sway can Pelosi possibly bring to bear?
Actually, I think I may know the answer to that one. And that’s because I’ve been turning it over in my head for the last two days now, since the news broke. And the funny thing is, that to stop McConnell’s power grab, Speaker Pelosi doesn’t have to do a damn thing. It’s all about what she doesn’t do.
Everything depends on how strong public support is that a new justice not be voted on until after the election. If there is high support to delay the vote, Pelosi is set. As we speak, there are 10 days left for the congress of the United States to either pass a new budget, or sign a budget extension for a specified period of time. If neither thing happens, at midnight on September 30th, the government shuts down.
That stops Trump and McConnell in their tracks. Because if the government shuts down, congress is prohibited from conducting any business that doesn’t directly relate to reopening the government. Trump shut down the government for 33 days a couple of years ago for his stupid vanity border wall. Pelosi would have to shut it down for 34 days to get to November 3rd. In reality, it could be reopened earlier, once McConnell no longer had the procedural time available to bring the nomination to the floor. The key is ensuring that the voters seeing the Democrats as protecting their rights and freedom of choice, and not making a naked power play.
And actually, Schumer has a break-glass-and-pull-handle tactic if he wants to use it. And it’s already battle tested and approved. I like to call it The Wisconsin Gambit.
About 5-6 years ago, Scooter Walker was governing Wisconsin the way a 3 year old governs his playpen. At the end of a legislative session, the GOP dominated Senate tried a late night, naked power grab to strip Wisconsin unions of their power. The Democrats furiously demanded a 15 minute recess.
When the GOP puled back into the chamber 15 minutes later, they were all alone. During the break, every Democratic Senator walked to his car, started up, and drove the 4.5 hours across the Illinois border, so that the Wisconsin state police couldn’t drag them kicking and screaming back up to Madison. And stopped the GOP in its tracks.
Like the US Senate, the Wisconsin Senate requires a quorum call on order to conduct business. A quorum being defined as 50% +1 of the total number in the body, and including at least one member of each party! By going to the mattresses in Illinois, the democrats denied the GOP the quorum call they needed to call a floor vote. They stayed in Illinois for more than a week, until after a bargain was negotiated. There is no reason I can think of why Schumer and the Senate Democrats couldn’t pull out exactly the same delaying tactic.
So there you have it. Considering the fact that a court confirmation is strictly a Senate function, I can’t think of any other kind of a rabbit that Pelosi could pull out of her hat, other than to refuse to bargain to keep the government open, thereby hamstringing McConnell. We’ll know soon enough if I was right. And if anybody knows of any kind of procedural US Senate rule that would prohibit Schumer taking the boys on the lam, please let me know, because I couldn’t find any.