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Symbolic solution in search of an actual problem

Support of 9 Southern Republicans for Respect for Marriage Act shows why Supreme Court isn’t about to ban same-sex marriage

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

Also in this report:

  • Texas U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls gets his knickers in a twist over Biden’s bicycle tumble
  • Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul fuss like an old married couple

Twice-divorced South Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace had a pithy reply to explain why she voted in favor of the Democrat-sponsored Respect for Marriage Act:

“If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them. Trust me, I’ve tried it more than once.”

gay supreme courtMace was one of nine Southern House Republicans, and 47 Republicans overall, who voted in favor of what was a symbolic maneuver to provide federal protection for both same-sex and interracial marriages – neither of which anyone is threatening.

The bill is being pushed by supporters of legal abortion to advance a fear-mongering argument that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs. Wade means that the Supreme Court is also about to torpedo marriage rights.

The vote in the House shows just how specious this argument is.

The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority can’t, willy nilly, just decide to come after gay or interracial marriages. The justices must be presented with a case that allows them to do so. And that means that a majority of legislators in a state, along with its governor, would have to approve a measure banning same-sex or interracial marriage that could then be challenged in court to give justices the opportunity to make mischief.

The notion that in the 21st century a state would ban interracial marriage is, of course, preposterous. And the fact that 47 Republicans broke ranks to support this symbolic bill is evidence of the weakness of the political appetite to ban same-sex marriage either.

Would state legislators and a governor in a Southern red state really deliberately wade into a boycott-filled political firestorm to pass a bill in hopes that the Supreme Court might bless it, given that a majority of even Republicans now support same-sex marriage?

Fat. Chance. This particular sky is not falling, no matter how much supporters of legal abortion might try to claim that it is.

By the way, the other Southern Republicans who supported the measure besides Mace include the three Cuban-American members from South Florida – Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar and Mario Diaz-Balart – along with three other Florida members — Kat Cammack from Gainesville, Brian Mast from the Treasure Coast, and Michael Waltz from St. Augustine.

Tony Gonzalez from West Texas and Tom Rice from South Carolina also voted yes; Rice lost his re-election primary after supporting Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls turned a routine transportation hearing into a public spectacle when he questioned Biden transport chief Pete Buttigieg about whether the Cabinet has discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Joe Biden from office.

Biden, said Nehls, “shakes hands with ghosts and imaginary people, and he falls off bicycles,” a reference to the president’s recent tumble from a bike while chatting with a crowd near his vacation home.

This is all part of an ongoing effort by Republicans to insinuate that Biden is an incompetent doddering old fool – a highly curious argument coming from fans of a septuagenarian with a tenuous grip on reality named Donald Trump.

Buttigieg called Nehls comment “insulting” before saying Biden “is as vigorous a colleague or boss as I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Which raises interesting questions about Buttigieg’s previous workplaces.

Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul — who hold each other in what can best be described as minimum high regard — fussed like an old married couple this week over a failed federal court nomination.

McConnell had, somehow, persuaded the Biden administration to nominate conservative, pro-life candidate Chad Meredith to a U.S. District Court seat in Eastern Kentucky. But Paul put a hold on the nomination – not because he didn’t support the nominee but because, he said, he had been shut out of what he termed a “secret deal” McConnell had cooked up with the White House.

The Biden administration then pulled the nomination, which had also run into a buzzsaw of opposition from Senate liberals; McConnell and the White House blamed Paul.

Asked about his relationship with McConnell after the dust-up, Paul replied “I think I’ve said enough.”

Translation: “Bless his heart.”

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Southern GOP, Democratic senators split on using “nuclear option” in Gorsuch fight

Senate eliminates filibusters of Supreme Court nominees in party-line vote

WASHINGTON (CFP) — With the support of all 24 Southern Republicans, the U.S. Senate has changed its rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominations, clearing the way for confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat on the high court.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

After Democrats blocked Gorsuch’s nomination with a filibuster, the Republican majority used a parliamentary maneuver to change Senate rules, eliminating the need to reach 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

That vote fell along party lines, with 52 Republicans in favor, 46 Democrats opposed and two independents who caucus with Democrats also voting against the move.

With the filibuster out of the way, Gorsuch was confirmed by a vote of 54 to 45, with just three Democrats supporting him, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia

Three of the four Southern Democratic senators — Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia — supported the filibuster and voted against confirming Gorsuch. While Manchin did not join the filibuster and voted for confirmation, he did not support the move by Republican leaders to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominees.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia

Manchin released a statement blistering both sides for “hypocrisy” and charging that the filibuster fight illustrates “precisely what is wrong with Washington.”

“Frustratingly, both parties have traded talking points: Republicans say it’s about obstructionism and Democrats say it’s a power grab. Their shifting positions and hypocrisy is the one thing that unites them,” he said.

Manchin also noted that in 2013, when Democrats used their majority to end filibusters for executive branch nominees, “every Republican Senator joined me in opposing the rules change then, but now, they stand united to do exactly what they opposed.”

Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 in a state President Donald Trump carried by a whopping 32 points. Warner and Kaine’s opposition to Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee presents less political risk in Virginia, the only Southern state Trump failed to carry last November.

Nelson, however, is also up for re-election in 2018 in a state Trump won and could be facing a formidable Republican foe in Florida Governor Rick Scott.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida

In a statement announcing his decision to oppose Gorsuch, Nelson said he has “real concerns with (Gorsuch’s) thinking on protecting the right to vote and allowing unlimited money in political campaigns. In addition, the judge has consistently sided with corporations over employees.”

“I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture (to end the filibuster) and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation,” Nelson said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately released a statement noting that Nelson had opposed a previous Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2006 and had previously voted to confirm Gorsuch to a seat on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Nelson proved to Floridians today that he no longer shares their values, and instead is more politically aligned with the liberal elite of Washington,” said Katie Martin, an NRSC spokeswoman. “Nelson has been in Washington too long and his move to ignore the will of voters in Florida will cost him his job in 2018.”

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine

Kaine, who is also up for re-election in 2018, is also being pounded by Republicans, particularly over a remark he made during the 2016 campaign saying he would support the “nuclear option” if Republicans filibustered any of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees. At the time, Kaine was Clinton’s running mate.

In a lengthy statement explaining his support for the filibuster, Kaine noted that Republicans refused to consider President Obama’s selection of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, for which Gorsuch was nominated. He also said the filibuster, which Gorsuch would need 60 votes to overcome, ensures that high court nominees “receive significant bipartisan support.”

“That is especially important now given the many important issues pending before the court and the clear need to fill a position long held vacant through blatant partisan politics with someone who can bring independence and non-partisanship to the job,” Kaine said.

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