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What They're Saying in Iowa about the Supreme Court Nomination

Leaders in Iowa are speaking out and telling Senate Republicans to do their job.

As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has the singular ability to decide whether Chief Judge Garland gets a public hearing before the committee. It’s a power that Chairmen have exercised responsibly for decades – no matter the party of the current president. But it’s a job – one that’s central to the Committee Chairmanship – which Senator Grassley simply refuses to do.

Across the state, Iowans continue to speak out against Senate Republicans’ refusal to do their job and give Judge Garland a hearing and vote. From business leaders, to elected officials, to local newspapers, Iowans have sounded a disappointed tone in Senators Grassley and Ernst’s decision to inject partisanship into the Supreme Court and in their refusal to carry out certain parts of their jobs for partisan gain.

Des Moines Register: Grassley Creates Stalemate On Supreme Court (Editorial). “Senator, this seat needs to be filled, regardless of whether the presidency and your own seat is up for grabs in November. We have admired Grassley’s principled stands on issues in his 35-year tenure as U.S. senator. In most cases, these stands have ensured government works more effectively and efficiently for his constituents and taxpayers. But refusing to hold hearings on Garland is pure partisanship — and simple stubbornness. Grassley won’t give Garland a chance, to even let him in the game. That’s unsatisfying. And un-American.”

The Hawk Eye: The Non-Partisan Thing To Do Is Have The Hearing (Editorial). “So, beyond the phantom declaration of a “Biden Rule” — it’s nonsense because there’s no such thing — Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the man who has the key to the door of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting room, told the immensely qualified judge Merrick Garland, during a cordial breakfast Tuesday in the ornate Senate Dining Room, why the representatives elected to do the job of confirming a Supreme Court justice when there’s a vacancy not allowing them to do their job. Because Grassley’s in charge and he’s not going to let them. Why? Grassley told Garland the Senate won’t be moving forward with his nomination during this ‘hyper-partisan election year.’ It’s hyperbole Grassley is trying to mask as good governance. Simply put, it’s a silly excuse because every presidential election is hyper-partisan. That’s the nature of the beast. To suggest this election is offering more vitriol than others, and therefore that’s justification for Grassley to not fulfill his constitutional obligation to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nominee, is a disservice to the people who voted for him, the people who have cases before the Supreme Court, and the founding fathers who designed a system specifically to eliminate partisanship on this matter….This is from a prominent Republican who helped Grassley get to the Senate. That’s telling. Grassley should hold the hearing and let the system work. It would be the noble, statesmanlike thing a senior senator should do. Even his supporters say so.”

Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier: Grassley Doing What He Decried (Editorial). “Even the Founding Fathers were not of like mind on every aspect of the Constitution with its many begrudging compromises — federalism versus states’ rights, mercantile interests versus agrarian, freemen and slaves, etc. — which they left to eventual interpretation by the courts as well as future issues never envisioned  Roberts correctly said in a 2014 speech the ‘partisan rancor’ of politicians in Congress ‘impedes their ability to carry out their functions,’ adding, ‘I don’t want this to spill over and affect us.’  Grassley just did that, something he decried a decade ago.”

Quad City Times: Mark Kirk Might Be Grassley's Undoing (Editorial). “Kirk's completely rational, open-minded approach didn't end there. ‘Obviously, I would consider voting for him,’ he said. ‘That's the whole purpose.’ Eureka. In one short interview with the national media, Kirk cut through the anti-Obama slag that's at the heart of the obstruction. But Kirk, it seems, just can't win. Duckworth continued to hammer away at him, even after he did right by the law and his constituents.  He's not pushing hard enough, says the Duckworth campaign, as if the Illinois Republican can single-handedly force a confirmation hearing. In reality, Kirk's stand opened a crack, one which may, over time, result in the failure of McConnell's and Grassley's rampart. It's a barrier that can't fall fast enough. The shorthanded Supreme Court is broken. Just this month, the high court was deadlocked on the question of forced union dues. Justices, through their unusual willingness to openly broker a proposed compromise from the bench, have indicated a similar 4-4 split on Obamacare's contraception mandate. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine followed Kirk's lead, calling for Garland to receive an up-or-down vote. And now a quarter of the Senate Republican caucus is, at least, willing to meet with President Barack Obama's centrist nominee. Slowly but surely, the McConnell/Grassley coalition of ‘no way’ is coming asunder, under the weight of political backlash and basic respect for the rule of law. Just ask Grassley, who has gone to ground in the past several weeks.”

The Daily Nonpareil: Listen to the people (Editorial). “Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley should hold a confirmation hearing on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.  Yes, this is another Grassley editorial. But this is important and something that should be mentioned whenever possible: Sen. Grassley’s refusal to hold a confirmation is in direct conflict with the will of the people of Iowa and of the people of the United States.  While in Council Bluffs Thursday, Grassley – chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – reaffirmed his stance to wait until after the November election to hold the hearings, despite President Barack Obama’s recent recommendation of Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the high court…..Grassley is in the middle of a swing through northwest and southwest Iowa, marked by public outings in Republican strongholds and private events at area businesses. Meanwhile, protestors have followed the senator – voicing their concerns about his obstruction of the nomination process.  The people are speaking now and the people spoke in the 2012 election: the Supreme Court has a vacancy, and a potential replacement has been named.  Let’s give him a fair hearing.”

Storm Lake Times: Big, bold and dead (Editorial). “House Republicans drove out their leader over comprehensive immigration reform. Trump and Rep. Steve King are kindred spirits when it comes to slandering brown people. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed from the day President Obama took office that his caucus’ main goal was to bring Obama down. Today, Sen. Chuck Grassley stands firm with McConnell in denying hearings to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland just because Obama nominated him. When Trump claimed Obama was born in Kenya, the Republican knuckleheads in the House pondered it seriously; King went so far as to suspect a conspiracy involving Western Union and telegrams from Kenya to the Honolulu Star Advertiser birth notice department. They want to deny women birth control as part of their health care coverage, and so when Trump says Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is ‘bleeding out of her wherever’ how could it be viewed as misogynistic?  The Republican Party created the vacuum into which The Donald strolled through racism, sexism, nationalism and obstructionism. Trump will be the nominee without a brokered convention. He deserves it. The Republican Party of today deserves him. Maybe this nomination can bring the party’s good senses back in the next cycle.”

The Hawk Eye: Grassley Takes Righteous Heat Over Judicial Bias (Editorial). “Back in Iowa this week U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley was hoping to avoid questions and criticism for his partisan refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy.  That’s why only three of Grassley’s 19 scheduled stops in the state during Congress’s spring break were slated to be public events where citizens can quiz him in front of the media.”

Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier: GOP may rue Garland snub (Editorial). “If Republican front-runner Donald Trump becomes president, he has called one potential candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court ‘phenomenal’ — his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, the senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, a Republican appointed by Bill Clinton.  Some conservatives, though, have called her a ‘pro-abortion extremist’ for striking down a partial-birth abortion ban because of vague language. Her nomination would create a no-win situation for GOP senators.  If either Hillary Clinton or Sanders wins — and Democrats recapture the Senate — it’s likely they would nominate someone more liberal to fire up the base, something that’s not happening with Garland.  Republicans may well delay any action on Garland’s nomination as a matter of politics, but the most pragmatic course of action would be to not dismiss him entirely. He could look a lot better to Republicans after Nov. 8.”

Storm Lake Times: Grassley should listen (Editorial). “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is fond of quoting historical precedent for denying President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court hearings or a confirmation vote. He really likes to dredge up former Judiciary Committee Chairman — now Vice President — Joe Biden’s remarks from decades ago to justify not considering a nominee during a presidential election year.  The argument is specious. Grassley and his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, acknowledge that this is a political action. Grassley said Obama does not deserve to send up a nominee because he has not been deferential enough towards the Republican leadership. That’s political. And it’s at odds with the American people, two-thirds of whom believe the Senate should act on the President’s nominee.  We hope that Grassley has consulted himself with more recent history, such as within the last two months. There he would learn that US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts fretted 10 days before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death that the judicial nomination process was becoming too politicized. Here is what Justice Roberts told New England Law, a private law school in Boston in February, reported by The New York Times on Monday:  ‘When you have a sharply political, divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms. If the Democrats and Republicans have been fighting so fiercely about whether you’re going to be confirmed, it’s natural for some member of the public to think, well, you must be identified in a particular way as a result of that process. We don’t work as Democrats and Republicans, and I think it’s a very unfortunate impression the public might get from the confirmation process.’  Chief Justice Roberts was appointed by President George W. Bush.”

Sioux City Journal: Supreme Court vacancy creates still another political spectacle (Editorial). “To this point, no Republican, including Iowa Senators Charles Grassley (who chairs the Judiciary Committee) and Joni Ernst, is willing to take the high road, in spite of past political battles, and advocate for putting politics aside and doing what's right.  As we have said before, we believe the Senate should take up Obama's nomination. In our view, the Senate should perform its ‘advice and consent’ responsibility by giving Garland a full, fair vetting. In the end, individual senators should explain to Americans why they support or oppose him. If the Garland nomination fails, so be it, but the process set forth in the Constitution deserves respect and Garland deserves a hearing.  In other words, senators should do their jobs.  Instead, it appears, we will witness nothing more than still another political spectacle.”

Quad City Times: Majority's Voice Ignored In SCOTUS Stall (Editorial). “Here's a number for you, Sen. Grassley: 816,429. That's how many Iowans preferred President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012. That's how many ‘voices’ your utter obstructionism is silencing from your home state in the name of false principle and partisanship. Chuck Grassley continued to impale himself on his party-first sword last week, following Obama's nomination of centrist U.S. appellate Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland won't get the hearing before Grassley's Senate Judiciary Committee, as is outlined in the U.S. Constitution, Grassley said. Obama is a ‘lame duck,’ Grassley falsely asserted, as if November's General Election had come and gone. The ‘people’ must have a ‘voice’ at the polls, he sang in chorus with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sorry, Senator. The people had a ‘voice.’ Obama -- the president congressional Republicans have tirelessly worked to undermine at every corner -- won by more than three million votes. Last time we checked, a president serves a four-year term. Grassley's intransigence and dereliction of duty is par for the course.”

Cedar Rapids Gazette: Keep dirty politics out of Supreme Court nomination (Editorial). “A recent attack ad against 8th Circuit Appellate Judge Jane Kelly is yet another new low in the unfolding Supreme Court vacancy drama.  By twisting and distorting Kelly’s role as a court-appointed defense attorney in a high-profile federal child pornography case, the ad was an ugly attempt not only to smear a potential Supreme Court nominee, but also to misinform the American people.  The ad was bankrolled by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative, dark-money organization that focuses on the judicial system and keeps its donors hidden. No doubt, they considered it a pre-emptive strike against a SCOTUS nominee that might have made it difficult for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to uphold his pledge to block any judge nominated by President Barack Obama. In 2013, Grassley enthusiastically supported Kelly’s appointment to the 8th Circuit, for which she was unanimously confirmed.  Grassley must publicly disavow the negative ad and the group responsible for it.”

Daily Nonpareil: Grassley Must Allow Supreme Court Nominee Hearing (Editorial). “Grassley’s actions, and those of many of his peers, fly in the face of past words on Garland.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah are among those who have publicly praised Garland. Furthermore, the nominee’s record as a criminal prosecutor – involved in cases such as the Unabomber, the Oklahoma City bombing and former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry – is an admirable one.  For Republicans, it’s hard to imagine Obama nominating a much more palatable option than Garland – eminently qualified, equal parts moderate and liberal. Seven current GOP senators, and 32 in all, voted for his confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997.  Yet, Grassley was one of the leaders in delaying his appointment to that bench for more than 30 months. The senator’s objections were classified by the Associated Press as regarding the number of seats on the courts, not with his credentials.  Somehow, Garland’s fate has come full circle – once again nominated for a promotion, threatened by Grassley’s obstruction on purely political grounds.  Again, we call on Grassley to stop playing political games and holding the judicial system hostage over partisan demands. Barring a qualified nominee on such grounds is not only an insult to him but to all Americans, who are represented by a court that should have nine justices at all times.”

Kelcey Patrick-Ferree, Principal at the Law Office of Kelvey Patrick-Ferree: “I am an attorney, and having the potential for a split Supreme Court (which results in lower courts' decisions standing but having no nationwide precedential value) for over a year can be a disaster for my business clients. Businesses thrive in a stable climate. It is not possible to figure out how to comply with the law, get a compliance regime set, and get down to business, when it is not possible to know for certain what the law says or worse, when it is clear that it is not possible to follow the same law in two different jurisdictions at the same time.”

Bonnie Campbell, Former Iowa Attorney General: “I’m just disappointed. This is not the Chuck Grassley that Iowans know… (Garland) is just one of those people who is quietly competent and was revered around the Department of Justice. He’s just what you’ve read – he’s decent, he’s smart and he should be on the Supreme Court of the United States.”