Grassley should listen

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is fond of quoting historical precedent for denying President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court hearings or a confirmation vote. He really likes to dredge up former Judiciary Committee Chairman — now Vice President — Joe Biden’s remarks from decades ago to justify not considering a nominee during a presidential election year.

The argument is specious. Grassley and his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, acknowledge that this is a political action. Grassley said Obama does not deserve to send up a nominee because he has not been deferential enough towards the Republican leadership. That’s political. And it’s at odds with the American people, two-thirds of whom believe the Senate should act on the President’s nominee.

We hope that Grassley has consulted himself with more recent history, such as within the last two months. There he would learn that US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts fretted 10 days before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death that the judicial nomination process was becoming too politicized. Here is what Justice Roberts told New England Law, a private law school in Boston in February, reported by The New York Times on Monday:

“When you have a sharply political, divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms. If the Democrats and Republicans have been fighting so fiercely about whether you’re going to be confirmed, it’s natural for some member of the public to think, well, you must be identified in a particular way as a result of that process. We don’t work as Democrats and Republicans, and I think it’s a very unfortunate impression the public might get from the confirmation process.”

Chief Justice Roberts was appointed by President George W. Bush.

He noted that Justice Scalia, the strict constructionist, was approved by the Senate 98-0. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia’s judicial adversary and friend, was confirmed 96-3. More recently, 42 senators voted against Justice Samuel Alito, 31 against Justice Sonia Sotomayor and 37 against Justice Elana Kagan.

“Look at my more recent colleagues, all extremely well qualified for the court, and the votes were, I think, strictly on party lines for the last three of them, or close to it, and that doesn’t make any sense. That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees,” Roberts said.

He served with Obama nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. “Anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area,” Chief Justice Roberts said.

In short, the chief justice finds the nominee to be qualified.

That doesn’t matter much to Team McConnell. It will when the public turns against them. Even the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court fundamentally and rightly disagrees with their desperate power play.

Iowans will notice.

Branstad fiddles on beach

While the Storm Lake School Board toiled to establish a budget last week, awaiting word on how much state aid the district will receive, Gov. Terry Branstad was sunning himself with his family somewhere. The legislature and governor are at least a month past their own self-imposed deadline to set “allowable growth” for local school districts so that they could meet their own state-imposed budget deadlines. The school board had to craft a budget that allows for the worst-case scenario, a 2% increase in state aid favored by the Iowa House.

Should the politicians do their jobs and arrive at an education appropriations number, the Storm Lake School Board could amend its budget for next year at additional time and expense. What a waste that could be avoided if the politicians weren’t so inept and lazy.

This is Iowa, where we say education matters more than anything. We were able to clear a bill through the legislature in no-time allowing silencers on guns — to save the hearing of the shooters, they said without laughing. But we could not figure out how much to spend on schools.

Gov. Branstad could play an important role in using his bully pulpit to bring everyone together. But for all we know, he was wearing a body thong in the Bahamas. (Perish the thought.)

The governor should be in Des Moines doing his job.

He ran for election knowing that the legislature meets from January through March, at least. If he wants to go fishing on Storm Lake in the summertime, good for him. He is not needed in the Capitol.

This is the third year in a row, as we recall, that the legislature and governor have not done their homework regarding world-class schools. They should be grounded.