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Shaheen's switch: Backs off Gorsuch vote

February 11. 2017 7:02PM

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch smiles during his meeting with Senator Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2017. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

That didn't take long.

For a year now, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has been echoing the complaints of her fellow Democrats that the Senate has an obligation to vote on the President's nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Invoking the invisible "Judiciary Committee hearings" clause of the Constitution, Democrats tried to convince voters that declining to consider President Obama's pick of Merrick Garland was improper. When Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch for the still-vacant seat, many Democrats stuck to that position, and said they would not block an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

So did Shaheen, for a few hours.

Last week, Shaheen said, "Everybody I've talked to agrees he should get a hearing and an up-or-down vote."

As the ninth Democrat committed to bringing Gorsuch's nomination to a vote, Shaheen would have guaranteed that Democrats would not be able to sustain a filibuster. White House press secretary Sean Spicer welcomed her decision and hopes more Democrats would join her.

So Shaheen flip-flopped. She tweeted to Spicer that she only meant a cloture vote.

That's just not true. An "up-or-down vote" in the Senate means a vote to confirm the nominee, not a procedural vote to close debate. Shaheen knows better. She just hopes the rest of us don't.

Shaheen is hardly alone in Washington in holding her party to far different standards than she expects of the opposing party. We should remember this the next time Shaheen tries to lecture Republicans on their obligations under the Constitution. Those duties seem to change depending on whether Shaheen's party controls the White House.

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