Commentary, News

Thom Tillis: No need to consider Supreme Court nominees once presidential primary season commences

TillisThe laugh-out-loud justifications for the U.S. Senate’s absurd blockade of President Obama’s eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland just keep on a comin’ from GOP senators. Yesterday, it was North Carolina’s own Thom “flip-flop” Tillis who proffered a new and creative explanation.

Tillis, who originally made noises about not obstructing a nominee before being summarily silenced and forced to sign a pledge reversing that position by Mitch McConnell and other GOP senate leaders, told a group of Campbell University faculty gathered yesterday at the university’s law school in Raleigh that there was no sense in attempting to proceed with the consideration of Supreme Court nominees once the presidential primary season is underway.

We are not making this up. For those of you who may have already forgotten, this year’s first major presidential contest took place in Iowa on February 1. And even if, for some reason, Tillis was only referring to primaries (Iowa, remember, is a caucus state) the New Hampshire primary took place the very next week on February 8. And, of course, as a practical matter, “primary season” commenced long before the first actual vote as candidates had been beating a path to Iowa and New Hampshire for years. Antonin Scalia died on February 13.

This means that, by any rational reading of the senator’s announced standard, presidential nominations to fill Supreme Court vacancies are now off the table for at least a full year (and probably much longer) prior to the end of a president’s term. This is, of course, utterly insane.

As the speaker at today’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon, UNC law professor Michael Gehardt, wrote in a recent column critiquing a similar excuse from a Pennsylvania senator, Tillis would take our country down an illogical and dangerous road:

“The position staked out by Toomey [Tillis] and his party leadership finds no support in our Constitution, in history, or in logic.

The Constitution directs the president to nominate and appoint Justices with the advice and consent of the Senate.

It does not mention the American people. Nor has the Senate ever done anything like this before. More than 20 presidents have successfully made Supreme Court appointments during presidential election years or as lame ducks.

In the last 100 years, the Senate has taken action on every pending Supreme Court nomination, except on two occasions when presidents withdrew their nominations.

Last, Toomey [Tillis] seems to ignore the fact that the American people spoke in 2012, when they gave President Barack Obama over 65 million votes.

Only one presidential candidate has ever received more: Obama in 2008.

If Toomey [Tillis] really wanted to give the American people a voice in the decision, holding public hearings on Judge Garland would be an excellent way to do so.”

Unfortunately, as Tillis made clear yesterday, he has no intention of doing any such thing.


News story: The Right’s obsession with tax cuts and appeasing rich donors is putting NC lives at risk

McCrory Truck

Gov. Pat McCrory

If you haven’t checked it out yet this morning, be sure to read this story by Bruce Siceloff, the transportation reporter for Raleigh’s News & Observer about a trucker and his terrifying crash on I-77 near Charlotte recently. As Siceloff explains, the trucker fell asleep at the wheel after unsuccessfully trying to find a rest stop at 2:00 a.m. and contemplating the $600 fine he would have received if he tried parking near an exit ramp to rest. Here’s Siceloff:

“He was driving Friday through one of the worst states for truckers trying to find a legal rest stop. Truck drivers need to rest when they’re sleepy or when they’re running up against federal hours-of-service limits. A 50-state survey showed that truck-stop and rest-area parking spots for truckers are far less plentiful in North Carolina than in neighboring states.”

And although the trucker apparently didn’t know the details of the crackdown that North Carolina has launched against parking truckers in recent years, his concern about a fine was well-founded. Here’s Siceloff again:

“A complaint to Gov. Pat McCrory from a political supporter last year sparked a quirky crackdown by the State Highway Patrol on drivers – mostly truckers – who park for naps beside exit ramps. And I-77, with a documented shortage of legal rest spots, is where troopers wrote most of these tickets last year.

To justify their “data-driven” no-parking campaign, Highway Patrol leaders seized upon crash statistics that greatly overstated the link between parked vehicles and fatal crashes.

Recent court records suggest that the patrol’s ticket-writing frenzy has slowed down this year. But a spokesman asserted Monday that ‘the parking enforcement emphasis is still ongoing.’”

In other words, as they have in so many other areas, North Carolina’s cheapskate leaders have put the public at risk with their tax cut-obsessed, special interest-driven policies. Because the state lacks adequate revenues to maintain enough rest stops, truckers are barreling down our highways without adequate rest. To make matter even worse, the poor guys and gals can’t even pull off on an exit ramp for a brief rest thanks to the griping of fat cat political donors who think their trucks are unsightly. Somewhere the pre-Christmas Eve Ebeneezer Scrooge is smiling at the “logic” of these shortsighted policies.

Commentary, News

Multiple new polls: Senate needs to move now on Supreme Court nominee

Two new national polls find overwhelming public opposition to the U.S. Senate’s ongoing blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. This is from a new poll conducted by GBA Strategies and the Center for American Progress:

“Majorities of voters—across the partisan and ideological spectrum—want the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and an up-­?or-­?down confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. By a 69 percent to 27 percent margin, voters nationally overwhelmingly think the U.S.Senate should move forward with hearings and an up?or?down vote for Judge Garland. This includes 79 percent of self-­?identified Democrats; 67 percent of Independents; 59 percent of Republicans; and 55 percent of self?identified conservatives/libertarians.”

“A new national Public Policy Polling survey finds Americans don’t trust Donald Trump to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, and would much rather have that decision in the hands of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Beyond that, there is growing support for filling the seat this year and failure to do so could result in strong backlash for Senate Republicans this fall.

Key findings from the survey include:

-Only 38% of voters nationally trust Donald Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice, compared to 53% who don’t trust him to do that. Only 57% of voters even within his own party trust Trump to make a selection, and more than 80% of Democrats as well as a majority of independents don’t trust him with that responsibility.

-Americans, by double digit margins, trust both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton more with the duty of picking a Supreme Court justice than Trump. Obama beats Trump 53/37 on that question, and Clinton does by a similar 52/37 spread as well. What’s particularly noteworthy is that in addition to more than 80% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans would prefer either Obama or Clinton making that decision to their own party’s presumptive nominee for President.

-By a 58/37 spread, Americans want the Supreme Court seat to be filled this year. That’s actually up from 56/40 support for filling it this year on a national PPP poll in early March. The reason for the shift is that 39% of Republicans now think the seat should be filled immediately, up from just 26% two months ago. That seems to suggest the ascendance of Trump has changed the minds of many GOP voters across the country about continuing to obstruct the nomination of Merrick Garland….

The bottom line is pretty clear- Americans want the Supreme Court seat filled this year. And support for doing that has gotten even greater over the last few months due to the substantial number of Republicans who don’t trust Donald Trump making that decision for the country. Voters see the refusal of Senate Republicans to even hold hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination as unreasonable, and this issue could hurt them in the polls in November. It’s been 3 months now, and there’s no indication this political problem for them is going away.”


The best HB2 op-ed of the weekend

If you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the fine essay in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Ned Barnett. As Barnett explains, the toll taken by HB2 on North Carolina’s national and international image has been devastating and figures to last:

“North Carolina’s reputation is being stained by the fight over HB2. The damage is hard to put a number on, but it’s real, it’s personal and it will last even after the feds, the courts or the voters put an end to the discrimination against LGBT people that the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory have put into law.

People want to be proud of where they live. They want to talk to relatives, customers, clients, vendors and strangers about their state’s virtues. They don’t want to have to explain the behavior of its lawmakers or stress that the representatives really aren’t representative.”

As for how things go so far out of hand, he aptly puts it this way:

“In North Carolina, a combination of zealous lawmakers safely ensconced in gerrymandered districts and a governor up for re-election and desperate to bolster his conservative base let the fuse burn all the way down. The resulting explosion drew national news coverage, boycotts by other states, travel advisories from the United Kingdom, canceled concerts and conferences, diminished tourism and petitions and appeals for the HB2’s repeal from CEOs, doctors and clergy. Despite all that, no one in power has moved to put out the fires. That includes U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and the rest of the state’s Republican congressional delegation who have stood silent while other state leaders have tied the state’s image to their fears and prejudices.

In a crowning touch, the ones who vandalized a North Carolina reputation built by generations of enlightened leaders are making the Orwellian complaint that they are the victims of an orchestrated ‘smear campaign.’ Those who are requiring that transgender men and women revert to using the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificates say they are being bullied by real-life versions of Orwell’s ‘thought police.’ This is especially rich since passage of HB2 occurred with a distinct absence of any thought.”

And as for what’s next and what caring and thinking people should do while the federal government and others go about the business of forcing the law’s repeal, Barnett concludes:

“Slowly it will dawn on these cloistered and myopic leaders that there is a whole nation out there with many millions of people who think people should be free to be who they are. Those people are reconsidering North Carolina and avoiding it. Companies, conventions and tourists are crossing the state off their lists.

Meanwhile, when someone from out of state asks you why this has happened in North Carolina, tell them the sad truth: There’s no good reason. None at all.”


HB2 update: More federal pressure; McCrory’s bad week; What happens when/if the Supreme Court takes it up?

Three quick HB2 updates for your afternoon:

#1 – The Charlotte Observer reports that still more federal agencies are looking at HB2 and its conflicts with federal law:

North Carolina is facing additional threats to its federal funding as two more agencies – the U.S. Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development – say they are reviewing the state’s controversial House Bill 2.

Earlier this week, U.S. Justice Department officials told Gov. Pat McCrory that the law – which pre-empted Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance – violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX, which bars discrimination in education based on sex. That could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.

In response to questions from the Observer Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation wrote that the agency is reviewing House Bill 2 “to determine if, among other things, it violates non-discrimination grant provisions for DOT federally-assisted projects.”

The federal DOT provides about $1 billion a year to North Carolina.

#2 – Be sure to check out today’s edition of The Fitzsimon File“The follies of another week dominated by HB2.” As Chris notes:

“Thursday, McCrory made a disjointed appearance before the North Carolina Chamber’s government affairs meeting in Raleigh, awkwardly repeating many false claims about the law in an on-stage interview with Tim Boyum of Time Warner Cable News.

That interview came after an embarrassing appearance by McCrory on a Charlotte radio show earlier in the week where he laughed off the criticisms of HB2 and claimed that Bruce Springsteen canceled his concert in Greensboro because only 8,000 tickets were sold, not because of his opposition to the anti-LGBT law.

It turns out that more than 15,000 tickets were sold and the concert was basically a sellout. It’s not clear where McCrory came up with the 8,000 figure but his false claim made news in North Carolina and around the country.

It is certainly not the biggest part of the HB2 story, but it does make you wonder about McCrory’s grasp of the facts or his willingness to simply make things up to support his position.”

#3 – Finally, what happens when HB2 or some similar law eventually makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court? Find out next Tuesday at our special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

A conversation with nationally acclaimed scholar, author and commentator Michael Gerhardt: The Merrick Garland nomination and its implications for the U.S. Supreme Court

Register below Read more