I recently wrote about how the Barrett confirmation hearing is proof that Benjamin Franklin was right when he wrote that “it is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.” Now that analogy is becoming reality as Democrats plan to leave actual empty seats in today’s hearing to vote on the nomination. It is all an effort to convince Democrats voters that the senators are really angry over the nomination and fighting like the dickens to stop it. It is, of course, pure theater with no real impact on the nomination but voters seem to demand little more from politicians today than visceral distractions.
The Committee rules do stipulate at least two members from the opposing party must be present for a quorum. However, committees have proceeded in the past with a majority and the Committee could simply change the rules. All sides will then be satisfied. The Republicans will get their vote and the Democrats will get their show — and the voters will get little beyond the same low-grade performance art from “the world’s most deliberative body.”
The boycott comes after Democratic senators, and particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein, faced rising criticism over their civility during the Barrett nomination. Democratic voters wanted a professional wrestling match with pile drivers and chair slams. Even though they know it is fake, they wanted the senators to at least pretend that they were trying to hurt each other. Instead, they watched a largely civil and often friendly exchange between senators. It was entirely out of sync with the demands of an age of rage.
The final outrage apparently came with the hug that Feinstein gave Chairman Lindsey Graham at the end of the hearing after saying that this was “the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” No hug has been so lethal since Sherlock Holmes embraced Professor Moriarty before their plunge over the falls of Reichenbach. The display of collegiality sent many liberals into immediate apoplexia with some demanding that Feinstein step down as ranking member. The president of the pro-choice group NARAL, Ilyse Hogue, declared the gesture as “wildly out of step with the American people. As such, we believe the committee needs new leadership.” It was certainly “wildly out of step” with the current American politics which demands nothing short of unhinged and irrational rage.
In an astonishing move, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went out of his way to demean Feinstein and publicly say that he gave her a stern talking to. Other colleagues have notably failed to come to her defense — leaving her twisting in the wind rather than risk the ire of Democratic base by supporting their long-time colleague.
The Democrats are reportedly planning to bring back the pictures of people who will be victimized by Barrett if she votes against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a case set for a November 10th argument. I have previously written how unfair and unprecedented this display has been for a confirmation hearing. Not only are Democrats now basing their confirmation votes on the expected vote of a nominee in a pending case, but they are misleading the public on the actual case. As I previously discussed, senators have been open about voting against Barrett unless she assures them that she will vote to preserve the Act. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D., HI) announced recently that she would vote against Barrett because “she will vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act.” In reality, the ACA case is unlikely to be struck down. The Court may uphold the lower court in declaring the individual mandate of the original ACA to be unconstitutional, but the real issue is whether that provision can be “severed” from the rest of the statute. Most legal experts believe that the Court has a clear majority favoring severance and preserving the rest of the act. The law was originally saved by Chief Justice John Roberts who felt that the individual mandate was constitutional. Congress later nullified the mandate. He and Justice Brett Kavanaugh are viewed as likely votes to sever. Even if the ACA were struck down however both parties are committed to the continued protection of pre-existing conditions.
None of that matters. The Democrats continue to parade these giant pictures that are designed to portray Barrett like some judicial serial killer surrounded by her victims. Now, they will not even be in the room. The pictures will be all that remains on the Democratic side, a fitting symbol of a now literal empty-sack strategy.