Kerry Drake

Kerry Drake

Wyoming columnist

Take a cup of blatant hypocrisy and put it in a blender filled with shredded copies of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal opinions. Season with a spoonful of negative public opinion polls and press blend.

Senate Republicans are trying to sell this bitter concoction to all Americans before the Nov. 3 presidential election. Some voters will buy it, but the obnoxious beverage should come with a warning label that states: “This product is hazardous to hard-won democratic principles. Consume it at your own peril.”

Let me be clear: President Donald Trump has the constitutional right to fill the vacancy created by Ginsburg’s recent death, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

But what’s the rush? On Sept. 26, a day before Ginsburg was laid to rest, the president selected Amy Coney Barrett, whom he appointed to a federal appeals court in 2017.

But Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, also held that constitutional right. In March 2016, Obama nominated moderate judge Merrick Garland to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died more than eight months before a new president was to be elected. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) blocked a confirmation hearing for Garland, whose nomination died when Trump took office in January 2017.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) helped lead the chorus of Republicans who at the time claimed no justice could be confirmed during an election year.

“Let the American people consider (the issue) as part of their deciding who to support in November,” Barrasso said on the Senate floor, nearly eight months before the election. He added that Obama should spare the country a bitter political fight.

“This shouldn’t even be controversial,” Barrasso said.

Democrats will never forgive GOP senators for how they treated Obama and his nominee, and they’re apoplectic over McConnell’s hypocritical decision to ram Barrett’s confirmation through, possibly even before the election.

I’ll give Barrasso a wafer-thin slice of credit for at least explaining months ago how the Senate would handle a Supreme Court vacancy. “We’re going to fill it,” Barrasso told Politico last May, when Ginsburg was hospitalized for an infection.

The 87-year-old progressive icon died Sept. 18 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Republicans mobilized immediately. McConnell said he had the votes to confirm Barrett even before anyone knew who the nominee was!

Wyoming’s senior U.S. senator, Mike Enzi, said in a statement that as with any nominee, he will review Barrett’s qualifications to ensure she demonstrates “a clear commitment to the rule of law and (is) fit to serve on the highest court in the land.”

Barrasso, head of the Senate Republican Conference, on Saturday predicted a pre-election confirmation “if everything moves along smoothly.”

That’s an important caveat, because the process typically takes several months, and many nominations have been derailed over the years.

But time is of the essence for Trump, who has launched an evidence-free campaign claiming mail-in ballots from blue states will create the greatest election fraud perpetrated in U.S. history. He wants the Supreme Court to throw them out and decide the contest in his favor.

“I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation. … I think it should be (a vote of) 8-nothing or 9-nothing,” Trump told reporters. “But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth judge.”

Translation: Chief Justice John Roberts, while a conservative, might vote with the three liberal members of the court if he believes Democrat Joe Biden should be declared the election winner. Installing Barrett as the ninth justice who could break a 4-4 tie would be the insurance Trump needs to stay in power, so she must be confirmed ASAP.

When Barrasso recently appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd said the GOP’s rushed confirmation vote “just sounds like a power grab, pure and simple.”

In his response, The Wyoming senator resorted to pure fiction, citing the nonexistent “Joe Biden Rule.”

In 1992, Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, there were no Supreme Court vacancies on the horizon. Answering a hypothetical question, Biden said filling a SCOTUS vacancy should be left to the next elected president.

Biden would have undoubtedly received pushback from then-President George H.W. Bush and incensed Senate Republicans if a vacancy had occurred, but since it didn’t it’s a moot point. Barrasso knows his so-called “Biden rule” is spun from whole cloth.

By the way, there isn’t a Barrasso or McConnell “rule” that covers Supreme Court vacancies, either. They’re making policies up on the fly.

Wyoming voters should closely watch the debate over Barrett’s nomination. At stake are protection of women’s reproductive rights, the survival of the Affordable Care Act, minority voting rights, LGTBQ protections and common-sense gun control laws that Ginsburg championed on the high court during the past 27 years.

Barrett has said she “won’t forget who preceded her,” but the pro-life Scalia disciple is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion is constitutional. It’s what has made her the darling of the religious right.

A week after the election, the Supreme Court will hear arguments that will decide the fate of “Obamacare,” which Trump has repeatedly vowed to abolish. Barrett was highly critical of Robert’s 2015 vote in favor of the federal healthcare program.

If the ACA is gutted, an estimated 10 million Americans could lose their health insurance, and insurers could once again refuse to cover pre-existing conditions.

I don’t understand why Republicans think moving the court further to the right is an automatic win for them. National polls have consistently shown that about two-thirds of Americans want Roe vs. Wade upheld, and a majority support keeping Obamacare.

My favorite part of Barrasso’s Meet the Press interview was his complaint that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has a “war room” where he and Democratic cohorts plot their strategy if the party wins back the White House and Senate. He made it all sound so … nefarious … as if Republicans don’t gather and map out their own plans.

“They have made it very clear that all bets will be off; they are going to blow up the filibuster, they are going to use the nuclear option,” Barrasso said.

He also said Democrats are talking about packing the Supreme Court, increasing the number of justices to gain a liberal advantage, as well as granting statehood to the District of Columbia so they can add two Democrats to the Senate.

Democrats should do all those things and more. Republicans stole one Democratic Supreme Court seat four years ago, and won’t honor the reasons they cited then to wait until after the presidential election — potentially stealing a second. The number of justices isn’t set in stone; the U.S. has had between six and 10 at various times.

The GOP ended the 60-vote rule for Supreme Court confirmations, so why not get rid of it altogether and stop perpetuating minority rule?

Barrasso seems genuinely aggrieved that Democrats may seek retribution for the way they’ve been marginalized. McConnell, I imagine, doesn’t take offense since he clearly loves playing take-no-prisoners politics. Considering the pain he’s about to inflict on this divided country just to give Trump a third conservative justice, he’s earned whatever payback Democrats decide to dish out.

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and can be reached at

(1) comment


Another epic fail by Drake. Barrett vs. Garland is an apples/oranges comparison on multiple levels.

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