McConnell Aide, Kentucky Senator Talk Supreme Court Stalling In Louisville Wednesday, Apr 13 2016 

One of the biggest questions in Washington right now is whether Merrick Garland, the federal judge nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court, will get a hearing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell staked out his position just hours after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia: No. The Senate would not hear any nominee from Obama.

But the president nominated a centrist federal judge in good standing among both major political parties, which has increased the political pressure on Senate Republicans to offer him a hearing. At the same time, 184 lower-court positions remain unfilled as McConnell’s Senate stalls votes on Obama nominees.

The national debate over Garland and the meaning of the Constitution’s “advise and consent” clause arrived at the Louisville Forum today.

Democratic Kentucky Sen. Morgan McGarvey and attorney Richard Dawahare argued the Senate should consider Garland. On the other side, University of Louisville law professor Russell Weaver and McConnell field representative Andrew Condia argued the Senate was at liberty to withhold any consideration.

Here’s what the Constitution has to say about the president’s and Senate’s roles in the nomination process:

“…the [the President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States…”

And are the main points from the Louisville Forum debate:

Richard Dawahare opened, arguing the debate had been inaccurately framed:

“They actually stated the outlier position: Should the Senate consider and confirm Merrick Garland? The precedent has been that in the president’s last term, the Senate has always confirmed the choice, the nominee. That’s the position. So, the question should have been, ‘Should the McConnell-led Senate ignore history, ignore the Constitution and refuse to consider this fine nominee?’”

Dawahare held that precedent obligates the Senate to consider a nominee and make a decision blind to ideology, and that the only question ought to be whether the nominee is qualified. He went on to mention that Republicans like Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch, prior to the vacancy, had spoken very favorably of Merrick Garland’s qualifications and his moderate decisions as a judge. He claimed there was no good reason to deny Merrick Garland a hearing.

Russ Weaver disagreed, saying there is no Constitutional obligation to consider a nominee. He also said there are many examples of nominees going without a hearing or subsequent confirmation.

“We have 25 nominees who never received an up or down vote in the Senate. We have 11 or 12 nominees who never got out of the judiciary committee. There were some who never had hearings whatsoever.

“One of the things we’ve seen in recent decades is that the Supreme Court is rapidly becoming a policymaker in the United States… It can do that, and has done that, but if it’s going to make policy, it’s quite legitimate for the Senate to weigh in in terms of saying who they want to have on the court… This is the only point at which the government has a significant level of say about who we put on the court. So I think given the fact that the court is increasingly making policy decisions, it’s quite appropriate to do what the Senate has historically done, which is to look at their policy positions.”

Morgan McGarvey responded:

“This is nothing more than a political stunt by the Republican majority to drive their base to the polls in November. That’s what this is about.”

McGarvey agreed with Weaver that the Senate is under no constitutional obligation to consider a nominee. He disagreed on what precedence dictates, however.

McGarvey said since 1955, all nominees have received a hearing unless they were withdrawn by the president himself. The average time from nomination to hearing since 1967 has been 50 days.

By refusing to uphold the last 60 years of standard practice in at least holding a hearing, McGarvey said the GOP is setting a dangerous new precedent. McGarvey did not insist that Garland be confirmed, only that the Senate consider him.

“At what point is it too arbitrary? When there’s two years left in a President’s term? Three years?”

Andrew Condia spoke as the representative of McConnell. He attempted to explain McConnell’s decision not to consider Obama’s nominees:

“Well, the Senate is doing the job it was elected to do in 2014, and that is to serve as a check on President Obama and the executive branch. If the American people want the Senate to change the ideological tilt of the court for an entire generation, then I can only imagine that we will see a President Clinton or a President Sanders in January 2017, and perhaps a Democratic Senate. But the Senate has no requirement to be a rubber stamp for the president.”

McGarvey briefly responded:

“Only a third of the Senate is up for a vote every year. Seven of the seats taken back [in the 2014 election] were in states Mitt Romney won. The 5 million more people that voted for President Obama in 2012 actually had no voice in this process.”

Letter to the editor: McConnell embodies political progress Monday, Apr 11 2016 

By Corey Thomas–

Last week in this publication, a student authored an opinion piece that unfairly criticized the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Instead of weighing McConnell’s full tenure at the helm of the United States Senate, the author focused on the Republicans’ refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland for the United States Supreme Court.

A fair look at McConnell’s record as the Majority Leader reveals that the notion of the 114th Congress not working is divorced from reality. The new Republican Senate has produced a large amount of bipartisan legislation to help Kentucky and the entire United States. For example, the 114th Congress negotiated an overhaul of No Child Left Behind that passed the Senate 85-12. Just this past week, the United States Senate passed bipartisan legislation named the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.

This legislation addressed opioid and heroin abuse across the United States. As someone with friends and family that have been affected by drug abuse, like many of my fellow Kentuckians, I believe that McConnell deserves sincere thanks for his leadership on this critical issue.

Unfortunately, the previous article criticized McConnell for “establishing an environment of ignorance and partisan division.” In my opinion, his efforts in the Senate to tackle critical issues facing our nation show just the opposite. McConnell pushed for bipartisan agreement wherever and whenever possible and should be commended for his efforts. His brief tenure as the Majority Leader offers a stark contrast to the near tyrannical rule of now-current Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). In his near decade as Majority Leader, Senator Reid refused to lead the Senate to complete basic tasks such as passing a budget.

In terms of divisive partisanship, Reid is the standard bearer. He led the maneuvering of Obamacare through the Senate by holding votes in the cover of darkness and, ironically, by using Senate rules for Budget votes to stifle debate on the 2,000+ page, multi-trillion dollar bill. I contend McConnell’s many legislative achievements this year clearly show that he deserves more credit than he’s been given. Indeed, he deserves considerable praise for leading the Senate back from an era of divisiveness that rivals anything witnessed in Washington in decades.

Finally, if the other writer wants to discuss President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court, I would suggest that he look to history of Supreme Court nominations. In 1992, current Vice-President and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden (D-DE), made strong statements from the Senate floor about rejecting potential nominees from a Republican president. Senator McConnell is merely employing the “Biden Rule,” a principle, which holds that the voters of the United States ought to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice instead of confirming a nominee in a president’s final year in office.

The question about this nomination is not about the characteristics or qualifications of Judge Garland. Instead, McConnell’s refusal to consider the judge is meant to give American citizens a vote! I support Senator McConnell and the power that he has given to the American people and my vote.

 

Climate Hawks Vote Endorses Sellus Wilder For U.S. Senate. Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Click here to visit Sellus Wilder’s Wilder for Senate Facebook Page and here to visit his Wilder for Senate website. Some of you may be familiar with Sellus Wilder’s film “The End of the Line.” Climate Hawks Vote We’re delighted … Continue reading →

The post Climate Hawks Vote Endorses Sellus Wilder For U.S. Senate. appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

McConnell finds his center: disrupting American politics Saturday, Apr 2 2016 

By Kyeland Jackson —

Since being elected the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has been hard at work. By that, I mean hard at work ensuring federal judicial appointments don’t work.

McConnell has made it a mantra to stomp out President Obama’s efforts.

Obama recently nominated Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia, a conservative judge who passed away early in February. Garland is a democratic judge, praised as being moderate on some policies and conservative on criminal punishment. In response, McConnell and Senate Republicans refuse to consider him.

Within a week of being refused, Obama nominated Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Circuit Court of Appeals is one power level below the Supreme Court. Hughes, a Louisville native, has been praised by fellow judges for her exceptional ability.

But once again, McConnell decided not to consider Obama’s nomination. It’s insanity.

I understand McConnell has different motivations and goals as a republican. Disagreement sometimes starts confrontation in government between republicans and democrats. But no matter the confrontation, the government body are united in ensuring  the well-being of all Americans.

So when senate republicans refuse to even consider Obama’s nomination, why does it seem they only care for their Americans?

In college we’ve learned to anticipate opposing viewpoints and to consider them before giving our own perspectives. It’s the beauty of free speech and the rights guaranteed to us as a nation.

I’m not saying McConnell needs to approve any of Obama’s nominations. I’ll make that clear. But by refusing to even consider nominations, McConnell is establishing an environment of ignorance and partisan division. His actions, and those of others, are a threat to the environment of public discourse expected in government.

As free-thinking people we should be welcoming the perspectives of others, not silencing them. Just as you are allowed to voice an opinion, other’s should be allowed to voice theirs.

Public discourse was questioned on the U of L campus when allegations of racism in Threlkeld Hall surfaced.

While the acts were despicable, one commentator said the student was entitled to their rights of free speech. And I agree, free speech is the right of all Americans.

But that doesn’t mean you can yell “bomb” in an airport, and expect to walk away free.

When speech threatens the physical or psychological health of citizens, we expect there to be consequences.

McConnell has the right to say what he wants. Last week he called the president’s visit to Cuba embarrassing. I don’t like what he says, but I have to appreciate his opinion.

But by not considering the suggestions of others just because of party lines, McConnell widens the quagmire between democrats and republicans in government. He’s lowering himself to the authoritarian tactics of those very same protesters outside the Trump rally.

I suspect he’s better than that. Especially noting his accomplishments after graduating from U of L, helping to found the McConnell Center and McConnel Scholars program. But as it stands, McConnell’s disrespectful means to get what he wants embarrass me as a U of L graduate and as a Kentuckian

I expect better from a representative of one of the highest governing bodies in America. Then again, I would expect better from a a five-year-old child.

Labor radio host, Kentucky labor leaders say ‘Thanks, Mitch McConnell!’ Saturday, Apr 2 2016 

By BERRY CRAIG The host of a nationally-syndicated labor radio talk show wants union members to “thank” Sen. Mitch McConnell for his “help” with the Friedrichs case. “He refuses to even consider a Supreme Court nominee from President Obama,” said … Continue reading →

The post Labor radio host, Kentucky labor leaders say ‘Thanks, Mitch McConnell!’ appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

April Fools’ Day At Mitch McConnell’s House. Friday, Apr 1 2016 

Folks gathered at Senator Mitch McConnell’s house, in Louisville, Kentucky, this April Fool’s Day to express themselves. Click here to view photos.   … Continue reading →

The post April Fools’ Day At Mitch McConnell’s House. appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

In Louisville Visit, McConnell Touts Anti-Opioids Bill Tuesday, Mar 22 2016 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited a Louisville organization Tuesday to talk about federal legislation that would help boost substance abuse treatment programs across the country.

McConnell met with officials from the Louisville chapter of Volunteers of America to discuss the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, which have hit Kentucky and Southern Indiana particularly hard. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier this month, with both McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul voting in favor.

“People like myself and other members of our delegation will be backing up grant applications that will be made from organizations like this to try to help them expand and treat more people,” McConnell said Tuesday.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy reported 1,087 overdose deaths in 2014 compared with 1,010 in 2013. Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county last year with 204.

“We’re going to keep at this,” McConnell said. “I know it’s such a burgeoning problem that getting a handle on it is proving to be extremely difficult, but it’s going to continue to be a priority.”

McConnell has been talking about the issue on a national stage for months. Most recently, he mentioned it during a speech on the Senate floor responding to President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. He called combating opioid abuse an issue both parties could agree on.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where identical legislation was introduced by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The Senate bill does not actually appropriate the $725 million authorized for prevention and treatment efforts; as McConnell has said, it would be handled through the regular appropriations process.

“So, the Speaker’s got a choice,” McConnell said Tuesday, referring to House Speaker Paul Ryan. “He can take our bill up, sign it and send it to the president, or if they decide to make some modifications we’ll have a quick conference. But I think we’ll get it down to the president pretty quickly.”

In Other News … McConnell SCOTUS block, Pitino interview, Gov. Bevin and Lawrence’s new ‘X-Men’ trailer Friday, Mar 18 2016 

Obama_and_Mitch_McConnellRoadblock: Earlier this week, President Obama, true to his word, selected a nominee for the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the late Judge Anthony Scalia — Judge Merrick B. Garland, says The New York Times. Also this week, true to his word, Sen. Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not act on […]

In Other News… McConnell still says ‘no,’ state Senate bills pass, best Kentucky college, and Lawrence at the Oscars Friday, Feb 26 2016 

Obama_and_Mitch_McConnellDon’t Even: TIME, NBC News, Chicago Sun Times, The Washington Times, NPR and PBS NEWSHOUR report Sen. Mitch McConnell reiterated his stance from last week: no hearings for a new Supreme Court justice nominee, now with the backing of his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. “I can now confidently say the view shared by […]

Senate Republicans Agree To Block Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Tuesday, Feb 23 2016 

Any doubt that Senate Republicans would hold the line behind their leader’s decision to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has been erased.

“I can now confidently say the view shared by virtually everybody in my conference, is that the nomination should be made by the president the people elect in the election that’s underway right now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday held their first closed-door meeting since the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia to discuss the party’s strategy going forward.

“I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference of the Senate in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president,” McConnell added.

Just two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois — have voiced skepticism of McConnell’s strategy. Collins is known for her independent streak and Kirk is running in a tough re-election battle in Obama’s home state.

Further bolstering McConnell’s decision was a Tuesday announcement by all 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that the panel would not move forward with any consideration of Obama’s nominee.

Top Republicans including McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also told reporters they would not meet one-on-one with Obama’s nominee, a long-established Senate custom in the confirmation process.

“I don’t see the point of going through the motions if we know what the outcome is going to be, and we are united on that,” Cornyn said.

Republicans brushed off Democratic accusations of obstruction as hypocritical.

A widely circulated 1992 video of then-Sen. Joe Biden, who sat atop the Judiciary Committee, showed him giving an impassioned Senate floor speech defending the Senate’s right to block a nominee amid a heated presidential election.

“It is my view that if a Supreme Court justice resigns tomorrow, or within the next several weeks, or resigns at the end of the summer, President [George H.W.] Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not — and not — name a nominee until after the November election is completed,” Biden said in 1992.

“We know what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot. We know what would happen,” McConnell said Tuesday. “A nominee of a Republican president would not be confirmed by a Democratic Senate when the vacancy was created in a presidential election year. That’s a fact.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., predicted McConnell would ultimately back down.

“He hasn’t seen the pressure that’s going to build. It’s going to build in all facets of the political constituency in the country,” Reid told reporters.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., whose past remarks on blocking Supreme Court judges have also been used as fodder by Republicans, said the partisan bickering is a sideshow to the underlying fight over Obama’s ability to get his nominee approved.

“The public doesn’t care about that, they care about us doing our job, plain and simple,” he said, “All this back-and-forth of quotes from years ago which didn’t hold anything up don’t make a darn bit of difference to the public.”

Senate opposition has not deterred the president, who intends to send a nomination to the Senate in the coming weeks.

Obama has been making calls to Capitol Hill in recent days, asking senators for their input and support.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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