CNN’s Tapper Claims GOP Responsible for Senate’s Descent ‘Into the Muck’

With the Senate’s Supreme Court confirmation vote of Judge Neil Gorsuch fast approaching, many are worried about the terrible precedent the Democratic Party’s filibuster will set. While others worry about nuking the filibuster rules. The politicization of Supreme Court confirmations has been going on for decades, but according to CNN’s Jake Tapper, it’s all the GOP’s fault. “Going back in time to figuring out where this started to descend into the muck, is it fair to say that this was 16-years or so when Republicans really started to obstruct the appointments of justices,” he claimed on Monday’s The Lead.

Cause we remember—we’re all old enough to remember believe it or not Scalia was confirmed with 98 votes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 96,” Tapper continued, “This used to be done in a very different way.

16-years-ago? There was no Supreme Court nominee to confirm 16-years-ago. Tapper’s claim was as though he picked the number at random. President Bill Clinton’s last nomination was Stephan Breyer in 1994, while President George W. Bush’s first nomination of John Roberts wasn’t until 2005. Breyer was confirmed by a vote of 87 to 9, and Roberts was confirmed by 78 to 22. Both were pretty sizable margins.

It’s a well-known fact that the obstruction and politicization of Supreme Court nominees started much earlier. It started roughly 30-years-ago when Democrats, not Republicans, obstructed and smeared President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Robert Bork in 1987. But those facts didn’t stop USA Today’s Susan Page from backing Tapper up:

And Clarence Thomas was confirmed of 52 and no filibuster against his confirmation. This has been a long process, a long corrosive erosion of some of the norms that used to govern the business with the Senate. And it’s one more thing that tears apart things that used to be a given. That you would have a Supreme Court nominee, you would have an expectation number one, that they get more support than 51. And also, there would be bipartisanship behind it. That's changed.

CNN’s new politics reporter and Editor at Large, Chris Cillizza lamented about how far the Senate had strayed from what the Founders designed it to. “The Senate was created as a body that was supposed to not be a direct channeling of the people’s will, which is how the Founders saw the House,” he complained, “That is not how the Founders intended it.” There was no mention of how the Constitution was amended so that state legislators no longer selected their Senators.

But Cillizza did place some blame on former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “When Harry Reid changed the rules, this was the inevitable results of it,” he argued.

For all their talk of Republicans being the obstructionists in the Senate for Supreme Court nominations, the facts prove otherwise. Since Bork’s rejection at the hands of a Senate controlled by the Democrats, it has been nominees put forward by Republican presidents who had been confirmed by the slimmest margins. Clarence Thomas was confirmed by 52 votes and Samuel Alito was confirmed by 58 votes. The facts make all the difference. 

Transcript below: 

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CNN
The Lead
April 3, 2017
4:42:24 PM Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: Chris Cillizza, welcome to CNN. Thank you so much for being here.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: So, let’s start with the Senate rules about to be blown up so that you only have to have 51 votes to vote on a Supreme Court nominee to have him confirmed. What does this mean? Is this something that people at home should care about?

CILLIZZA: Yes. Because the Senate was created as a body that was supposed to not be a direct channeling of the people’s will, which is how the Founders saw the House. When you get rid of the filibuster, we saw it on federal appointments, we saw it on the cabinet, and now we’re likely to see it later this week on the Supreme Court. It becomes a majority rule body on certain things. Not on everything, not on healthcare, not on tax reform policies, but on certain things.

That is not how the Founders intended it. Now, You can say “things change, the filibuster is changing.” There is a lot more filibustering or movements for closure—truing to end debate than ever were 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and certainly 40 or 50 years ago. But I think what you see here is, this is a classic goose and the gander. This has been going on for a while. When Harry Reid changed the rules, this was the inevitable results of it. Now the question is: does it get to the point where there is no filibuster—where the filibuster is removed for anything?

TAPPER: Cause it’s not in the constitution.

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CILLIZZA: It is not. Right now we are dealing with the idea of okay, this is nominees for courts it’s cabinets. If you want a real world impact, just real quickly. The reason that Donald Trump's cabinet of the most conservative that we can recall is because of what the changes Harry Reid made in 2013, because you needed a simple majority. Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, they got it on virtually everybody.

TAPPER: And Susan. Going back in time to figuring out where this started to descend into the muck, is it fair to say that this was 16 years or so when Republicans really started to obstruct the appointments of justices. Cause we remember—we’re all old enough to remember believe it or not Scalia was confirmed with 98 votes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 96. This used to be done in a very different way.

SUSAN PAGE: And Clarence Thomas was confirmed of 52 and no filibuster against his confirmation. This has been a long process, a long corrosive erosion of some of the norms that used to govern the business with the Senate. And it’s one more thing that tears apart things that used to be a given. That you would have a Supreme Court nominee, you would have an expectation number one, that they get more support than 51. And also, there would be bipartisanship behind it. That's changed.

It’s in contrast to what’s happening with the Senate Intelligence Committee now. The Senate Intelligence Committee is going back to, I think, old norm where is they are trying very hard to behave in a bipartisan way on a n important issue. But we’re not seeing that with the Supreme Court now.

Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas C. Fondacaro