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A Top Republican Makes Absurdly Contradictory Argument About Supreme Court

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 2/03/2016 Michael McAuliff

WASHINGTON -- Republicans who have decided to block any Supreme Court nomination so voters can have a say accused Democrats Wednesday of politicizing the high court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared almost immediately after news of Justice Antonin Scalia's death that he would not allow a replacement to be seated in President Barack Obama's final year, saying, "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice."

Democrats immediately cried foul, and demanded that the Senate do what it normally does by holding hearings and voting on a nominee, rather than leave the court one justice short for more than a year.

They have since held numerous news conferences, telling the GOP, "Do your job," and argued that Republicans are shirking their constitutional duties by failing to hold hearings and votes on a nominee.

On Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has vigorously backed McConnell's position that voters should have a say, declared that it is Democrats who are playing politics by calling for such hearings and a Senate vote.

"Why would the other side come to the floor to express outrage about not having a hearing?" Grassley said. "It's because they want to make this as political as possible."

"That's why the president wants to push forward with a nominee that won't get confirmed," he added. "That's why the other side is clamoring for a hearing on a nominee everyone knows won't get confirmed. And making the court even more political is absolutely the last thing that the Supreme Court needs."

Grassley also went on at length about how the issue of the next justice should be part of this year's political campaign. 

"We're going to have a debate,  a national debate, between the Democrat nominee and the R epublican nominee about what kind of justice the American  people want on the Supreme Court," Grassley said. "That's what the American people deserve, and that's what we're going to let the people decide."

He also pointed to what Republicans have dubbed the "Biden rule," which they say is a standard set by Vice President Joe Biden when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1992. Biden said in a speech that the Senate should not act on a hypothetical high court nominee, on much the same grounds that the GOP is citing now.

However, Democrats note that Biden also said he'd be willing to work with then-President George H.W. Bush on a nominee anyway.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was unimpressed with Grassley's reasoning, noting that Biden in 1992 helped approve more than 64 of Bush's federal judge nominees, while Grassley so far has moved 16 of Obama's.

"When my children were little, I'd read fairy tales to them," Leahy said. "T hey loved it, especially Through The Looking-Glass, Alice In Wonderland. And listening to this speech, I thought of the  looking glass and Alice in Wonderland."

Grassley and other Republicans have spent a lot of time unearthing old quotes from Democrats to argue their case, but like nearly all the politicians they have quoted, they also have taken at least partially contradictory positions in the past.

Indeed, Grassley used to seem more concerned about the court getting mixed up in elections when he delivered a floor speech in 2006, saying he was worried Democratic senators would oppose Justice Samuel Alito because they would be concerned about how voters would respond.

"They will vote against Judge Alito with an eye toward the next election and the demands of their most extreme and activist supporters," Grassley said at the time, before Alito was confirmed. "The Washington Post had it right when it editorialized on Jan. 15: 'A Supreme Court nomination isn’t a forum to refight a presidential election.' I would go a step further than that editorial. A Supreme Court nomination is not a forum to fight any election. It is the time to perform one of our most important constitutional duties and decide whether a nominee is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court."

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