Some days the search for the daily nugget of Republican idiocy takes longer than usual. Other days, it just falls in your lap.
H/T Think Progress:
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), joining a parade of Republican Senators angry that a minority of Senators can no longer obstruct President Obama’s judicial and executive nominees, took to the Senate floor Friday to compare his caucus’ plight to that of abolitionists in the 1800s — a comparison that probably would have shocked abolitionists from the 1800s.The Republican Party really has no excuse for blocking President Obama's judicial appointments. The President's nominees are overwhelmingly non-ideological, solidly credentialed, ABA-vetted, and experienced. They are not flaming nutcases beholden to thinly-disguised political advocacy groups, not virulently attached to extreme, religious-based social dogmas, and, judging from the Senate's record in unanimously confirming prior nominees actually voted on, they are consistently acceptable to members of both parties for the job.
Nominating qualified persons to the Federal Judiciary is a task specifically assigned to the President in the Constitution. The Senate's duty is to Advise and Consent to those nominations. Historically the filling of Judicial vacancies has been viewed as a Presidential prerogative and the Senate has exhibited deference despite the fact that the nominees may lean somewhat left or right. Only on rare, limited occasions has the Senate considered a nominee too extreme or otherwise unqualified. That's not a partisan observation--it's the historical record.
So for Republicans to take that hallowed tradition and trash it with this President, as they have done, they sometimes feel compelled to justify themselves. Cue the waxing poetic about the rights and obligations of the "loyal opposition," as if the right to obstruct in and of itself was more valuable to the country than the thing they were obstructing--in this case the Federal Judiciary, charged with interpreting, resolving and administering the law of the land:
Let me take that rule change and think out loud about where we put ourselves as a country. I wonder who was the first United States Senator in our history who came to the floor and said, “My fellow Senators, I have thought about this, I have contemplated it, maybe I have even prayed about it. And I believe the day has arrived to end slavery in the United States. And I will be attaching an amendment to every bill to end that horrific practice. I’ll bet they were a very lonely United States Senator at that point in time. But I’m also guessing that that Senator and tenacious other Senators along the way exercised their rights as a minority and as an individual United States Senator to continue to force that issue. What a courageous, remarkable thing to do.The abolitionists were opposing the institution of slavery, a known and recognized evil. There is nothing "evil" about the appointment process of Federal Judges, nor is there any suggestion that the Judges under consideration are evil. The only visible harm to the country being done here is the Republican Party's peculiar decision that it doesn't need to satisfy its Constitutional obligations with this President. The only visible harm is to the citizens of the country for whom the Federal Judiciary was created and upon which we all rely in faithfully interpreting the law. For Johanns or any Republican to characterize their abdication of their responsibilities to confirm Federal Judges as something noble or heroic is absurd. There is nothing "courageous" or "remarkable" about it. It is simply petty and vindictive, and without precedent in the century and a half since the Civil War.
In addition to the absurdity of Johann's characterizing himself as the equivalent of a latter day John Brown, his analogy fails miserably. The Senate was explicitly created to ensure that minority voices (in less populous states) would have equal Representation in the government. Slaves themselves were given partial (3/5) status to give slaveholding states even more representation (although the slaves themselves went unrepresented) As far as the U.S. government is concerned, the Constitution bends over backwards to ensure the right of Senators in comparatively vacant states (such as Johanns' Nebraska) as much of a voice as they could possibly demand. And so it was on the issue of slavery:
In the 1800s, the battle to maintain control over the Senate became a centerpiece of the national debate over slavery. Because free states were more populous than slave states, slaveholders looked to the malapportioned Senate as their best chance to ward off federal legislation limiting slavery. This is why the Missouri Compromise of 1820 admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free one in order to preserve the Senate’s balance. It is also a major reason why, after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowed both territories to be settled under a policy of “popular sovereignty,” both abolitionist and pro-slavery settlers migrated to Kansas in the hopes of influencing whether that territory would be admitted as a free or slave state.For any Republican to don the abolitionist mantle is preposterous and insulting, for reasons that go well beyond simple lapses in logic. The fact is that the Republicans have willingly, voluntarily embraced the dereliction of their Constitutional duty. No specious analogies or posturing can change that fact.
In other words, rather than speeding the end of slavery, the U.S. Senate’s protections for minority voices played a key role in preserving slavery in the early days of the Union.