Grassley’s stupid power play

Democrat Bruce Braley cautioned a bunch of trial lawyers that if he didn’t beat Republican Joni Ernst for US Senate, a farmer in the person of Sen. Chuck Grassley would end up chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Braley’s warning was appropriate, but not because the New Hartford Republican is a farmer — it’s because the old horse is no maverick but a career politician whose lust for power overwhelms any aw-shucks sense of decency he once had.

Witness Grassley’s stumble-bum reaction to the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday. At first the Judiciary chairman commented that he could not say how Scalia’s seat would be filled. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the Republicans would not allow the Senate to take up any Supreme Court nominee put up by President Obama. Within minutes, Grassley then aped what McConnell said, that any appointment would have to wait for the next President.

“The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year,” Grassley said on Saturday. “Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”

By Sunday, Grassley had to acknowledge that he messed up the talking point provided by Senate leadership. In fact, sitting Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in an election year, 1988. He was nominated by President Reagan. Grassley voted to confirm him. Either he was ignorant, deceitful or not up to the task of chairing the Judiciary Committee.

Grassley is big on defending the Constitution, when it suits him. In the second part of his statement, he thumbs his nose at the President and his constitutional powers. He was reminded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that the Constitution demands that the President nominate, and the Senate act in advice and consent. She notes that President Obama was duly elected, twice, the last time in 2012. He remains the President until 2017.

Let the people decide, the Republicans chant. The people did decide, when they elected Obama twice. The Supreme Court does not belong to the Republican Party. The Constitution does not put the Supreme Court up to popular election. It is the President’s job to nominate and the Senate’s job to decide. The Senate, of course, is incapable of deciding much of anything unless it involves trying to undermine President Obama. With Grassley at the helm, the Supreme Court will be able to decide nothing, split 4-4 for the next year and a half.

Grassley’s dim wits must be causing short circuits as he tries to manage this message. He will become the poster boy for Congressional incompetence and dysfunction. The elites will have a field day with the rube.

Grassley is an obstructionist, purely. He is a lap dog for the Senate Republican leadership; he nearly is slobbering on McConnell’s pants. He is defying the terms of the Constitution, in violation of the oath he took on the Bible in the Senate Chambers. Oaths mean nothing when they stand in the way of power. But he is too feeble to know that the power is not his, it lies with McConnell and the donor class.

Obama should confront McConnell and his sycophant Grassley by nominating an esteemed federal appeals court judge who has previously been cleared by Judiciary. Like Jane Kelly of Iowa, enthusiastically promoted by Grassley and unanimously approved by the Senate for her appointment to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013. She is a former federal prosecutor.

Then what does Grassley tell Mitch and the Boys?

If the Republicans sit on or outright reject such a nominee, the American people will be reminded why they despise Congress. If they allow a superb jurist like Kelly to pass, then they have just written off their base who believes that President Obama is not really President, anyway. They cannot appoint a justice who sees the law objectively, or at least not the way they do. And, they certainly cannot accept that Obama is legitimate in every sense as President.

Either way, Scalia’s death paints the portrait of Grassley as he is in the flesh: stupid with arrogance, drunk on power lust and devoid of the Constitutional values he swore to uphold.

If there were justice in politics, this would be his comeuppance. But the Democrats are so disoriented in Iowa they probably will blow this one, just as Braley did in helping Grassley into his perch.