The first crack in the Republican Party’s united front in opposition to President Obama’s constitutional duty to nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia just appeared and it came from a rather unlikely source.
North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, in office for just over a year, is breaking ranks with Republicans who are saying that anyone President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy should not even get a hearing. This is how far from the mainstream of American politics the GOP has moved. In the past, a senator might have broken ranks with the party to say that he or she intended to vote for a qualified nominee, no matter what that nominee’s judicial philosophy may have been. Now “breaking ranks” for the GOP means saying that you think that Republican senators should fulfill their constitutional obligation to “advise and consent” on a nomination.
Tillis, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made his remark on February 16 while talking to Tyler Cralle, who hosts a talk show on Wilmington, North Carolina radio station WAAV. Tillis didn’t mince words. He told Cralle that Republicans would be opening themselves up to new accusations of being obstructionists by automatically refusing to hold hearings on any nominee, regardless of who he or she is. He said,
I think we fall into the trap if we just simply say [no] sight unseen, we fall into the trap of being obstructionists.
But before you go running to the local church bell tower to call out to the world that there is still at least one sane Republican, know that Tillis isn’t saying that he would vote for an Obama nominee. He’s merely saying that the Senate should give the president a chance to make a nomination, which he and other Republicans will then oppose, unless that person is some sort of clone of Antonin Scalia.
Tillis makes some strange statements during his conversation with Cralle. For example, he says this:
Our concern, based on the actions of this president, is that he’s going to put forth someone who is ideologically aligned with him, and I think that that’s out of step with the American people.
Interesting. Don’t presidents usually nominate judges who are aligned with their political philosophy? And what “American people” could Tillis be talking about? Certainly he’s not talking about the almost 67 million “American people” who voted to elect Barack Obama in 2008. Likewise, you have to assume he can’t be talking about the 65.5 million “American people” who re-elected President Obama in 2012. So exactly what “American people” would a moderate to liberal justice be out of step with? Oh, Tillis must mean the 54 Republicans in the Senate. Those Republicans represent 54 percent of the Senate, but only 47 percent of the country’s population. No wonder Tillis is confused.
Thom Tillis may be sincere in his desire for members of his Senate caucus to do their constitutional duty. But in these times any time a Republican says something even remotely rational you wonder “what’s his angle?” Maybe Tillis is playing the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” who has been sent out by leadership to see if there is any support for an actual sane, rational position among Republicans. If that’s the case, we already know what the result will be.
Here is Thom Tillis’s interview, via The Tyler Cralle Show:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/247350227″ params=”color=ff5500″ width=”100%” height=’166′ iframe=”true” /] Featured image via USDA/Flickr