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 v. 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.

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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.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of a name in the title. -ED.

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Kerry Drake

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...

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  1. What we’re seeing here is a gang war between two ruthless gangs – the two dominant political parties – each fighting to pack the court not with “conservatives” or “liberals” but rather partisan loyalists. This is exactly the opposite of what one wants in a judge (and what the framers intended when they made the post of Supreme Court Justice a lifelong appointment). In my opinion, we can (in fact, must!) require Supreme Court nominees not to be a member of any political party and to be nominated purely due to their qualifications as lawyers and impartial judges – not on the basis of ideology. (Note that Amy Coney Barrett has only been a Federal judge for 3 years and thus is hardly the best qualified candidate; she was chosen for perceived partisan loyalty and for a desire to inject religion into decisions which should not be based on it.) If this means removing the power to nominate from the President (who is, at this time, always tied to a political party) and delegating it to a body whose members are chosen to avoid partisanship and ideological preferences, so be it; we should amend the Constitution to do it. Otherwise, the Supreme Court will be a partisan football rather than a fair arbiter, and partisan wars over its size and composition will continue to cause the country to thrash about embarrassingly instead of maintaining consistent policy.

  2. The fact is the party in power has the right and ability to make an appointment when there is a vacancy. It has nothing whatsoever to do with “fair” or not. Republicans feel it is “fair” to fill a vacancy when it occurs, and let’s face it Democrats do too when it is to THEIR advantage. If you want to “blame” someone, make it Ginsberg herself. She knew how old she was, knew she had cancer, and refused to step down to allow a Democrat to make the appointment. She and she alone is responsible for this situation.

  3. Micheal Pearce is correct, the events of four years ago are not the same.

    Public opinion polls are not the “polls” that count. The State of Wyoming voters elected, in polls that do count, Senator Barrasso to represent them in the US Senate for six years. Drake, myself, or others may not agree with Senator Barrasso on this issue or other issues, but the voters of Wyoming elected him to make decisions for them. Regardless of any appearance of hypocrisy or not.

    1. a term is a term. regardless of the first or second.

      2016 was different because merrick garland was refused to be vetted by the republicans months (as in plural) before the obama term ended. trump is pushing forward with a nomination a month (singular) before his term may or may not end.

      The various polls only prove that the majority of people think that it is improper to confirm a supreme court judge this late in the term.

      you want the will of the people to count when their elected representatives make decisions. but, what about those decisions of the representatives that go against what their constituents want?

      it seems that you want one to be true when it aligns with your thoughts, but not the other since you disagree….


  4. Thank you, Kerry. It really is helpful to have direct-quote driven articles.

    I had to give up on John Barrasso years ago. Now-a-days I find my self voting against him. It’s not about political positions. I about equally disagree with both John and his recent opponents. For me, it’s about making sure I vote for the better person.

  5. Kerry Drake has exposed the hypocrisy of the GOP time and again. Sen. Barrasso has succumbed to the allure of Washington spin. It has been said, and I think it’s true, everyone in Wyoming is a neighbor. I expect honesty from my neighbors, and I assume they expect it from me. Sen. Barrasso sounds like he would rather speak with forked tongue than be honest about the GOP’s own hypocrisy.
    Four years ago, Mitch McConnell refused to even speak to Obama’s Scotus pick, and I believe it was mostly due to the fact that Obama was black. You could almost hear the old southern directive from his lips saying “Move to the back of the bus, boy”. Now with a white racist president, Mitch is telling Trump “here son, you sit up front with me”
    Sen. Enzi may be retiring but he still has a vote in the confirmation process and he could decide to show his Wyoming neighbors that he believes precedent has meaning and value. Sen. Enzi, vote no and show your neighbors you won’t be a part of the hypocrisy.

    1. I don’t recall Mr. Drake proposing we wait in 2016 and now that the tables are turned, he proposing we should wait. The democrats screamed bloody murder in 2016 that is was wrong and now that the tables are turned, they are just a big a hypocrites as the republicans screaming we should wait. So throw all of the politicians under the bus……..not just the ones you happen to disagree with.

      Looks like a bit of hypocrisy all around…….

  6. Sigh, so Senator Barasso ends up being another National-Republican-party-over-Wyoming-folks hack.

    If you’ve seen photos of him during GOP pronouncements, he’s standing so close to McConnell that he must be able to smell what Mitch spilled on his flashy, silk tie during lunch. If only this WY senator would stand so near to the heart of what Wyoming residents really want, fairness and justice, where the rules the GOP espoused during the Garland nomination process holds true for the next nominee.

    If Barasso thinks we’ll forget his double standards come election time, good luck with that. We want an elected official who chooses integrity over insider maneuvering, the good of Wyoming, not the good old boys club. We’re watching your actions Senator. Make an attempt to make us proud.

  7. The events four years ago were not the same as they are now. If an opening on the court comes as Trump closes out a second term, then we are in the situation where we were four years ago. When a president closes out his eighth year in office, it is fair to expect the Senate to wait, as what happened after Obama.

    If you are going to make this argument, Mr. Drake, at least state that difference. It is significant.

    1. it is only significant to those who believe trump is honest, compassionate, and a good business man.

      Most of the population agrees that the appointment should wait until after the election. But, I’m sure all the trumpist’s chalk those polls up to “fake news”….. right?

      1. Because they are not told about the distinction. They are only told what the progressive media wants them to hear.

        I am no fan of Trump, but the truth is the truth. What you are being told is not true.

        1. So the multiple polls, from various sources, that show the majority of those asked want to wait until after the election to confirm a new judge to the supreme court are fake?

          apparently its all a conspiracy.

          I hope you can hear my eyes rolling through your monitor.

          1. Nothing what you write addresses my point.

            Think more about what I have posited here before regurgitating a faulty and circular argument that dodges my main point by focusing on numbers that I claim exist by a faulty narrative.

          2. From 2016, RBG stated “”The president is elected for four years not three years, so the power he has in year three continues into year four.” “Maybe members of the Senate will wake up and appreciate that that’s how it should be,”

            Certainly she realized that her liberal position was going to be filled with a conservative and changed her mind, but she was pretty clear in 2016 that the President had the right to nominate a justice to replace Scalia. Again, Democrats are as big a hypocrites as Republicans on this issue albeit the situation is a bit different as Mr. Pearce points out.

    2. Michael Pearce- how would you frame your argument in light of the fact RBG explicitly in no uncertain terms let it be known she wanted her replacement to be nominated by whomever was President on proximately Groundhog’s Day 2021 and not before ? That whole ” dying wish ” thing…

      1. I would say that was 9ne person’s desire and by no means makes a rule.

        She was also progressive meaning she would bet on Trump not winning. And none of that changes my argument.

        1. regardless of the narrative you want others to impose, it changes nothing.

          Overwhelmingly, the majority of polls conducted show that people think the appointment should wait until after the election. It is not up to you to decide if those that answered don’t understand the details you wish them to follow.

          Spin if you like, or claim the poll is a “gotcha” question, or unfair comparison. Your attempt to discredit the results is laughable and a bit see through.


          1. No, Chuck. Polls have nothing to do with my point.

            Instead of laughing at it think about it and address it