In the ongoing ping-pong match over the future of the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans are beginning to settle into two distinct teams. You’ve already heard from Team Obstruction, whose most recent spokesman was Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. In threatening to block potential Hillary Clinton Supreme Court picks for the next four years, Burr joined the ranks of the other formal obstructionists—Sens. Ted Cruz and John McCain. As McCain told a crowd in Mesa Arizona last Thursday of his own post-election plans:
I believe we must keep a majority in the United States Senate and one of the reasons is that there could be as many as three Supreme Court justices that there will be in the next four years. We have to have a Senate that will prevent that four to four split from tilting to the left and making decisions that will harm this nation for decades to come.
So that’s Team Obstruction.
It’s not yet clear, though, that there are enough Senate Republicans dedicated to four years of gridlock to win any intra-party dispute between that side and the other, which I’ll call Team Responsible Governance. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has been perfectly clear, for instance, that the blockade of Democratic president nominees ends with the coming election: “You just can’t do that,” Flake told the New York Times. “You shouldn’t and you can’t. People expect to have a full court.” Sens. Susan Collins, Jim Inhofe, and Lindsey Graham appear to share that view. So does Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who recently noted that “If that new president happens to be Hillary, we can’t just simply stonewall.” And this week, Team Responsible Governance was joined by Georgia Sen. David Perdue, another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who told reporters Monday that simply obstructing all future Clinton nominees would be “a dereliction of duty.”
He added: “You have a new president and that president nominates, and we advise and we consent or we withhold consent,” Perdue said. “But you do have a hearing. I’m going to be one that says ‘look, our oath of office says that we’re going to govern.’ And that’s what we should do.”
In contrast to how the rest of this election cycle has gone for his peers, Perdue sounded a positively conciliatory note this week, insisting, “both parties need to find a way to compromise and get the country moving again.”
“Whoever’s in the White House,” he concluded, “we’re going to give them a fair shake here in terms of trying to move forward…”
Here’s hoping that Perdue’s team wins the day.