How Many Times Do We Have to Tell You Not to Count on Moderate Republicans To Save Us


Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is a disaster moving slowly but inexorably towards us like the steamroller in Austin Powers. This morning, Ed Kilgore convincingly argued in New York that liberals’ great hope for stopping that disaster, moderate Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, seems poised to fuck us all over.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that both senators are “satisfied with the GOP plan to limit the scope of documents to be released regarding Kavanaugh’s record,” which Kilgore reasoned is a “pretty strong signal of party loyalty,” as the documents issue represents both the Democrats’ best hope of slowing the nomination until after the midterms and a classic GOP tactical move.

But the question isn’t actually whether Collins and Murkowski are sufficiently “satisfied.” They’re both craven political operators. What this is really about is whether they’re OK with throwing their lot in with their revolting party and casting aside their shared supposed commitment to keeping Roe v. Wade intact. This seems as good an indication as any that they absolutely are.

The documents in question are records from Kavanaugh’s time as a staff secretary in the George W. Bush administration. As Matt Ford at the New Republic noted yesterday in an excellent debunking of the GOP’s arguments against releasing the documents, Kavanaugh himself has pointed to his years as staff secretary as “the most interesting and informative” years of his career, specifically of his “prior legal experience [that] has been most useful for me as a judge.” And, Ford argued, there’s ample reason to think Kavanaugh’s records from that time might be important:

As staff secretary from 2003 to 2006, Kavanaugh would have been well-placed to weigh in on some of the Bush administration’s most significant moments, including the Iraq War and its aftermath, the Abu Ghraib scandal and other torture-related policies, the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, the federal partial-birth abortion ban, and more. These issues aren’t unrelated to the judicial role he would perform on the high court, especially given that Kavanaugh has said how influential the staff secretary role was on his future performance on the bench.

The volume of documents that would be covered under this request is high, but that shouldn’t be reason enough not to request them. But, as we know, the GOP does not give a solitary fuck about process or our old friends The Norms; they will use whatever levers of power they have—with the barest legal justification—to achieve their political goals. It’s hard to imagine a more consequential time for the party to use this power: Getting Kavanaugh on the court will ensure a voice, and likely an outright majority, for oppressive, cruel conservatism for years and years to come.

The other big Collins and Murkowski news of the past few days is equally depressing: On Saturday, the pair told the Washington Post they haven’t seen the same emotional intensity in appeals for them to vote against Kavanaugh that they did when they were targeted during the battle to gut the Affordable Care Act. That’s not surprising—motivating action from constituents is easier when you’re threatening to literally kill them by taking their health care. The stakes could very well be just as high this time, but it’s harder to communicate the Supreme Court’s impact with the same urgency, particularly when we can’t predict what cases they’ll take up or decisions they’ll hand down in the future. It also doesn’t help that the legal world is just boring as hell, too, and the left has never had as good an advocacy infrastructure on the judiciary as the right does (nor does it have the millions of dollars that groups like Judicial Crisis Network have.)

Anyway, we’re fucked. Sorry. Stock up on birth control and have a good night.

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