Not long after we got off air from yesterday's BradCast, Senate Republicans kept their promise of breaking their previous promise that they would never ever ever --- because it would just be plain wrong and an insult to the voters! --- seat a new Supreme Court Justice during a Presidential election year. Their original promise held for exactly one Presidential election in a row, when it was Obama's nominee to the high court that they blocked for more than a year in 2016. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
Donald Trump's third appointment to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett, now has the dubious distinction of being the first Justice in U.S. history to have been confirmed without a single vote from the minority party in the U.S. Senate. (Even rightwingers like Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were both unanimously confirmed.) She will also be notorious for having been seated closer to an Election Day (just one week before it) than any other Justice in history, leading Democrats to correctly describe the entire affair as an "illegitimate" "power grab".
But, even before Barrett was officially sworn in as the newest Justice on the GOP's already-stolen Court on Tuesday morning, the five Republican Justices on Monday night --- (with five of six of them now seated by GOP U.S. Senate majorities elected by a vast minority of American voters) --- had already ordered the state of Wisconsin to reject what is likely to be well over 100,000 timely cast and postmarked mail-in ballots simply because they are delivered by the USPS after polls close on Election Day in the Badger State. The anti-democratic order overturns a lower court judge who allowed the counting of ballots postmarked by Election Day, even if they arrive up to six days afterward --- just as Republicans agreed to during the state's primaries earlier this year. But now that they're competing with Democrats, apparently vote suppression is necessary. More on that particular outrage hopefully tomorrow, because the ruling was even worse than it sounds.
But, for today, the outrageous hypocrisy, perfidy and appalling dishonesty of the Senate Republicans' latest court-packing stunt with the illegitimate now-Justice Barrett --- after well over 60 million American have already voted in an election that may very well cost the Republican Party control of both the Senate and White House --- needs to be highlighted today. For that, we're joined by AARON BELKIN, Director of Take Back the Court, the nation's oldest organization formed specifically to call for expansion and reform of both SCOTUS and lower federal courts following the GOP's original theft of the high court in 2016.
While the need to save democracy itself by unrigging the Republicans' packed federal courts is quite clear, the question remains as to whether Senate Democrats understand that, and whether they will have the courage to do so --- presuming they are able to win back control of the chamber amid years of new voter suppression laws enacted by states and activist GOP jurists.
Belkin details the existential stakes and necessity of doing so, and offers his thoughts on whether Democrats will muster the strength to end the Senate filibuster as required to accomplish it next year.
"It's not just about the theft of the court from Barack Obama, but it's also that we are facing planetary emergencies like climate change, with effectively no time left on the clock," Belkin argues. "And we're also facing what you could call 'democracy emergencies,' where the Court itself has worked hard to keep black and brown voters from the polls. This Court, even the Court as it was configured in 2017, was highly unlikely to allow the next President to deal with those emergencies."
"To have robust judicial reform, you need to expand lower federal courts commensurate with the number of seats that Mitch McConnell prevented President Obama from filling during the last two years of his presidency," he tells me. "Then you need to expand the Supreme Court just by enough Justices to get the job done, to deliver a Court that will allow the next administration to address the emergencies we face." His group also calls for term limits "to try to minimize some of these problems moving forward" and "a code of ethical conduct" for Justices who, unlike lower federal court judges, have no such requirements for recusing from cases in which they have conflicts of interest, or even "situations where, for example, Justice Thomas' wife is lobbying President Trump and the White House the same week that President Trump is a party to a lawsuit in front of Justice Thomas."
Belkin also offers his reaction to Joe Biden's recent vow to create a bi-partisan panel of legal scholars to make recommendations for such reforms after six months of study, and what Americans must do to help make sure any of this happens, in the event that Democrats win both the Senate and White House. He also responds with a very compelling argument to those who charge that these reforms would simply be escalated the next time Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and the White House.
Finally, speaking of just some of the stakes, we're joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report on yet another record hurricane now barreling toward the Gulf Coast, yet more hurricane-winds and record wildfires in Colorado and California, and then Trump's lies and Biden's truth about action on our climate crisis at last week's final Presidential Debate of 2020...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)