Leah Vukmir has gotten herself in another mess of her own making. The career politician who desperately wants to go to Washington so she can serve as one of Donald Trump’s senatorial minions has been complaining about Democratic “obstruction” of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vukmir does not appear to have noticed that Kavanaugh is, by all indications, on a senatorial fast-track. Two months after Trump nominated the veteran Republican legal fixer to serve on the high court, Kavanaugh has already completed a week of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings — during which Democratic members of the committee were highly engaged participants. A vote on the Kavanaugh nomination is expected in short order.
So what is Vukmir complaining about?
The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate is trying to make a big deal about how the senator she would like to displace, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, has responded to the Kavanaugh nomination. The problem is that Vukmir is confusing partisan obstruction with the constitutionally defined system of checks and balances that requires senators to provide advice and consent regarding nominations.
What Vukmir does not understand — or, perhaps, refuses to acknowledge for reasons of political positioning — is that Baldwin is performing the duties that are expected of an engaged and responsible senator.
When President Trump announced the Kavanaugh nomination in July, Baldwin responded as many astute court watchers did. The senator expressed concerns regarding a nominee with so long a record of partisan and ideological activism. “People need an independent justice who will not overturn the law of the land on women’s health, health care for people with pre-existing conditions, and the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Americans,” said Baldwin, who explained, "The stakes are very high for the American people and these are the things that I will be looking for as I review the nomination.”
Baldwin examined Kavanaugh’s record and quickly determined that she could not support his nomination. A longtime advocate for expanding health care protections for working Americans, the senator was particularly concerned about the nominee’s approach to these issues.
“After reviewing this nominee’s record, I know why powerful special interests in Washington selected Judge Brett Kavanaugh to work on the Supreme Court for them, not the people of Wisconsin,” she said. “At a time when so many in Washington are working to overturn the law of the land that helps provide affordable health care for 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including more than 2 million Wisconsinites, we cannot afford a nominee who could serve as the deciding vote to take us back to the days when powerful insurance companies wrote the rules.”
Baldwin’s approach to the Kavanaugh nomination has been serious and thoughtful, as her approach to Supreme Court nominations has always been. She has shown respect for the formal and informal demands of the confirmation process, and for the interest of her constituents in that process. The senator met last year with Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch, whose nomination she ultimately voted against, just as she did the previous year with President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. After her meeting with Garland, Baldwin said the discussion had “strengthened my conviction that this is a very well qualified and experienced judge who deserves a hearing and a vote.”
Unfortunately, Garland never got a confirmation hearing or a confirmation vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his caucus refused to consider the Garland nomination for the better part of a year — 293 days — after Obama nominated a jurist whose impressive credentials have been acknowledged by many Republicans and many conservatives (including Gorsuch and Kavanaugh).
What McConnell and his Republican colleagues engaged in was actual obstruction. They refused to show the basic measure of respect that should be accorded a Supreme Court nominee — and that Democrats such as Baldwin have accorded Kavanaugh.
For Vukmir to call Baldwin's actions “obstruction” is nonsense.
Vukmir’s outlandish claims illustrate how low she is willing to go to advance her ambition to serve as a rubber-stamp senator for the Trump administration. They also illustrate her hypocrisy.
After the Wisconsin Republican complained in a tweet about “@SenatorBaldwin’s obstruction on Judge Kavanaugh” she was asked by Wisconsinites to discuss the actual obstruction of the Garland nomination. But Vukmir, a notoriously secretive politician who has gotten into hot water on open records issues, has avoided an honest discussion about the way in which the people who are supporting her Senate bid mangled the confirmation process for Garland.
Instead, even after Vukmir was called out for her cynical political ploys, the candidate kept tweeting that “@TammyBaldwin decided to obstruct Judge Kavanaugh's appointment,” when Baldwin had done nothing of the sort. After complaining that Baldwin had not met with Kavanaugh, Vukmir then responded to the senator’s efforts to meet with the nominee by griping that they “look like a charade.”
The only charade in this race is Vukmir’s claim that Baldwin is engaging in obstruction.
Vukmir is lying to the voters. Sen. Baldwin has done precisely what a senator is supposed to do. She has respected the constitutional requirements of her position. She has engaged in the process in an open and honest manner. She has stated her positions. She has responded to developments in the confirmation process as it has moved forward. And she intends to participate in votes regarding this nomination.
If Leah Vukmir thinks this is “obstruction,” then this candidate for the U.S. Senate knows far too little about the duties of a senator to be seriously considered for the position.
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