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Senators: Collegiality Is Long Dead

Ted Vaill: Collegiality is long dead, and it is now time for total war with the disgusting, self-centered, money-grubbing Republicans who are only interested in getting reelected.
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Every day, and I mean every f…ing day, I get requests for money from Democrats pleading for help to get reelected, or to get their friend elected. If I do give them money, do I get a thanks the next day? No, I get a request for MORE money. Here is my response, as the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings are commencing.

Democratic Senators, now is the time to show what you got and that you are interested in protecting the American and Democratic values that have become part of American life since the days of FDR. If you don’t do EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, to preserve these American values in the weeks ahead, I will write you off…

Collegiality is long dead, and it is now time for total war with the disgusting, self-centered, money-grubbing Republicans who are only interested in getting reelected.

That includes the “dirty tricks” that “Moscow Mitch” has become so expert in using in the arcane halls of Congress. Screw the “collegiality” that you Senators are so fond of using. That is long dead, and it is now time for total war with the disgusting, self-centered, money-grubbing Republicans who are only interested in getting reelected.

Americans have a more favorable opinion of hemorrhoids than they do of you. 

It is time, next week, when the full Senate reconvenes to vote on the Barrett nomination, to fight to the figurative “death” to prevent the confirmation of this nomination, which would give the conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court for the next generation or so. Do it for your kids and grandkids, and mine…

As I previously argued in this space, do the following, Senators: 

1. Unanimous Consent. Never allow anything to be passed in the Senate by “unanimous consent” for the rest of 2020. Force a vote on the floor of the Senate for everything. Force the Republican Senators up for reelection to stay in Washington to vote, vote, vote on everything until the nomination is withdrawn or defeated.

2. Quorum Calls. If you follow the Senate on C-Span, you will often see a Senator speaking to an empty chamber, except for staff people. The Senators only show up for “quorum calls”, which require every Senator to stop that they are doing and race to the Senate to check in. If there is not a majority, the Senate has to adjourn for the day. If suddenly there are a majority of Democrats on the floor, they may be able to vote to adjourn for the year, or make some other “good trouble”. Democratic Senators, make quorum calls every hour the Senate is in session. 

3. Filibuster.  Although Moscow Mitch has exploded the “nuclear option’, making the 60 votes for cloture of debate for Supreme Court nominations a thing of the past. All it takes now is a majority of the 100 Senators, and the Republicans have 53 of them, at least until next January. Stand up and speak, Democratic Senators, on the floor of the Senate, and talk about whatever you want: your favorite poem; read from Mary Trump’s book about her uncle; read the Notorious RBG’s most memorable opinions; just keep talking until Moscow Mitch shuts you down. Then another Democratic Senator gets up and starts his or her filibuster, until shut down by a cloture vote, each one of which requires all Senators to come to the floor.

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4. Trash the nominee.  She seems like a nice, smart lady, with seven beautiful children, but she is also an extremely conservative, 48 year old judge who may very well cast the deciding vote to destroy things that many Americans regard as life-saving: their health, their safety, the ability to control their own bodies. Judge Barrett, how dare you impose your conservative Catholic values on those Americans who do not practice your faith? Nothing should be off the table in questions to the nominee about how her religious beliefs or past writings will influence her future opinions on the Supreme Court. Get her extreme religious beliefs on the record through her writings in law review articles, speeches, court opinions or the other public positions she has taken, such as strongly opposing abortion. Insist that she discuss her past writings or positions in answer to the questions posed; if she refuses, ask the key questions again and again until she answers, or impose the “two hour rule” that no Senate committee hearings can go on for more than two hours in one day if objected to. Object, Senators…

5. Boycotting.  At critical times, Democratic Senators should fail to show up so that a quorum does not exist, especially if key Republican Senators who are running for reelection do not show up, are COVID-quarantined, or are home in their state. This would require careful planning and coordination among Senators Schumer and Durbin and others to make sure that the timing is right. 

6. Disrupting Committee hearings and the Senate. Let chaos reign down in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings: demonstrations in the hearing room; protests outside the Senate office buildings and the Senate; and fiery speeches on the floor of the Senate starting next week and in the Committee this week. Don’t hold back…

7. Shutting down the government. The U.S. government now is scheduled to shut down shortly after December 11, 2020, unless extended by Congress. The Democrat Senators (and Nancy Pelosi) should refuse to allow a vote on any extension (an old GOP trick), unless the nomination is killed. This would be especially powerful if Biden is elected by a strong majority, and the Senate is due to have a Democrat majority starting in January, 2021. Kick all government business until the new Congress convenes on January 3. 

 Comparing Judge Barrett to Justice Scalia

Barrett clerked for Scalia, and has said that she would pattern her legal philosophy on the Court on what Scalia believed and wrote. Scalia was an “originalist”, meaning that whatever the drafters of the Constitution almost 250 years ago believed was how he interpreted the meaning of the Constitution. Scalia also taught constitutional law at my law school, Chicago, and one of the other well-respected constitutional law professors there, whom I know well, told me that he and Scalia had ferocious arguments over how the Constitution should be interpreted.

Scalia believed that it should interpreted purely as the Founders wrote it, without regard to anything that has happened since, while my friend argued that the Constitution has to be interpreted in accordance with its meaning today. In 1789, women could not vote, nor could almost all blacks, and Senators were appointed by the state legislatures, not elected by the voters. And “electors” were the ones who chose the President, not the citizens, since most citizens in 1789 were almost illiterate and could not be trusted to do the right thing. Electors still elect, and they have chosen two of the past three Presidents to become President even though they lost the popular vote. 

Critics have said that Scalia’s opinions follow the Procrustean Method. In his majority opinions, Scalia often writes like the Greek mythical figure Procrustes, who forced his guests to fit snugly into an iron bed, stretching out their bodies or chopping off their limbs as necessary. Scalia often forced all prior legal opinions in a given area of law into the shape he needed to create the new rule he would then announce in a majority opinion. As with Procrustes’ unfortunate guests, the result with Scalia’s opinions is that the operation is a success but the patient dies. For an excellent article on the dishonesty of Scalia’s opinions, see “Scalia as Procrustes for the Majority, Scalia as Cassandra in Dissent”, by University of Chicago Law Professor Mary Anne Case, University of Chicago Public Law & Legal Theory Paper Series, No. 603 (2016), also found here

Judge Barrett has pledged to follow Justice Scalia’s unfounded beliefs and opinions religiously. 

Senators, do it, if you want my support in the future 

If you don’t do all you can to derail the confirmation of Judge Barrett, Democratic Senators, you will not get my support in the future. Why should I? Justice Barrett would vote to keep Trump in office, if this is a possibility after the election, and would vote to do away with almost everything I value in our American democracy for the future of my children and grandchildren: the ability to control one’s own body; quality healthcare; Medicare; Social Security; universal voting rights; protection of the environment; free speech and freedom of the press; campaign finance law revisions; equal rights for all Americans; protecting legal immigration; quality education; and so on…

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Senators, why should I continue the 400 years that my ancestors have spent to build this country into the world’s greatest democracy, since my first American ancestor arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, if you will not figuratively “fall on the sword” to protect our democracy? That is what we elected you for…

Ted Vaill