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Walker, Schimel jump feet first into SCOTUS battle

By   /   February 21, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker will join a network of press conferences Wednesday calling on Senate Democrats to give Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch an up-or-down vote and “restore the Supreme Court to full membership.”

Photo by The Associated Press

COURTING POLITICS: President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is expected to get some help Wednesday from Republican big guns Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. The conservatives are calling on Senate Democrats to give Gorsuch an up-or-down vote.

The joint press events in 11 states, sponsored by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, forces a question steeped in conflict for those on the left and the right.

Walker will join fellow Republican and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, as well as Kurt Bauer, president of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, for the 2:45 p.m. press conference at the State Capitol.

These are interesting times, and even more interesting positions.

After the left went apoplectic on conservatives’ “Let the People Decide” movement that had Republicans refusing President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, the same left-wing players are paying back President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been caught in the hypocrisy cross-hairs, almost immediately declaring she would vote against Gorsuch, then advising that she would offer the nominee “fair consideration,” only to reiterate that she would not vote for him but support a filibuster against his nomination.

The Madison Democrat made a federal case out of her Republican colleagues insisting that no Obama nominee in an election year should come up for a Senate hearing. Garland, Obama’s pick to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly more than a year ago, did not get a vote.

Walker has called out Baldwin in recent tweets.

“Hypocrisy: telling others to meet with #SCOTUS nominee in 2016, but announcing your vote on nominee in 2017 before meeting,” the governor tweeted earlier this month.

Baldwin fired back: “Is @ScottWalker trying to impress @POTUS with his tweets or does he want to run against me? I’m ready.”

The liberal did have what she described as a “respectful and thoughtful conversation” with Gorsuch, but emerged reiterating she would “not support a Supreme Court nominee who has too often favored big business over workers and retirees.”

The what-a-difference-a-nominee-makes position of conservatives is not lost on the left. Republicans sound aghast that Democrats would move to stall a vote on Gorsuch after doing exactly the same thing throughout 2016 – even as liberals chanted and harangued and hashtagged Republican senators to “#DoYourJob” in giving Garland a vote.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, said the Democrats’ threat to filibuster is like comparing apples to oranges. She said last year’s delay by Republicans was entirely a result of it being an election year. Ans she noted the election year stall wasn’t something Senate Republican leadership invented, but a point originally raised by then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., during President George H.W. Bush’s term.

“It’s a different thing to say, ‘Let’s wait until after the election,’ as opposed to saying, ‘We don’t like this president so let’s block 100 percent of what they are doing.’ That is a very different proposition,” Severino said. She asserts that had Hillary Clinton been elected, her nominee would have gone through the Senate confirmation process without much delay.

Perhaps. We’ll never know.

What we do know is this: Conservatives saw in Garland a potentially dangerous high court justice whose judicial track record is just a fraction to the right of uber-liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as liberals see Gorsuch as left only of ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

So the brinkmanship rolls on, as do the irony and hypocrisy.

The only difference is the left’s stall tactics probably will mean little in the end. If Senate Republicans want Gorsuch, Gorsuch they shall have. They’ve got the numbers and they have the “nuclear option” – thanks to the precedent established by Democrats for federal appellate court nominees – that would do away with the needed 60 votes for cloture on Supreme Court nominees.

Democrats didn’t count on Trump winning in November. Now that he has, it’s his move. More so, it’s the Republican-led Senate’s move.

Severino expects Gorsuch to be the next Supreme Court justice; it’s only a matter of how it happens.

“And that’s up to the Senate Democrats,” she said, adding that it will come down to whether Democrats place politics over principle — precisely the same argument Democrats made about Republicans in 2016.

Still, much remains to be done – on both sides – in the politics surrounding the Supreme Court battle.

The Judicial Crisis Network in January rolled out a national campaign to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Pleased with its “Let the People Decide” campaign in the Garland nomination showdown, the nonprofit is engaging in a “comprehensive campaign of paid advertising, earned media, research, grassroots activity, and a coalition enterprise, all adding up to the most robust operation in the history of confirmation battles.”

In short, JCN and its allies are targeting states where Senate Democrats are vulnerable in 2018, like Wisconsin and Tammy Baldwin. The group says it will spend at least $10 million to “confirm the next justice.”

The goal, said Severino, is to create “the most robust campaign for a Supreme Court nominee in history and we will force vulnerable senators up for re-election in 2018 like Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill to decide between keeping their Senate seats or following Chuck Schumer’s liberal, obstructionist agenda.”

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M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.