Senate vote 50-48 for Kavanaugh

The US Senate is due to vote on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court this morning NZ time.

It looks like being a done deal for Kavanaugh, but that may not be the end of the controversy.

New Zealand has a cl;ear separation between the appointment of judges and politicians, as it should be, so it is strange and alarming to see how political important appointments to the highest judicial position are.

The vote was 51-49

FBI ‘background investigation’ requested before Kavanaugh vote

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that the FBI conduct a background investigation before a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They want this done in just a week, but it seems a prudent pause in proceedings.

Reuters (Twitter):

Republican Senator Flake says it would be proper to delay floor vote on Kavanaugh for up to one week.

Senate Judiciary Committee will request Trump administration has FBI conduct background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

Senate panel says supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh, must be completed in one week.

One week isn’t a lot of time for this, but it is better than a highly politicised Senate hearing that proved little apart from vested interests and manipulation of both Republicans and Democrats.

Vox:  Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Also from Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

It may be up to the FBI now to get some questions answered.

A dramatic last-minute demand by Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Friday prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek an FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations that have riveted the country and imperiled his confirmation chances.

The Republican-led committee approved Kavanaugh’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate over Democratic opposition, with Flake providing the decisive vote.

But Flake, a moderate Republican, cast his vote only after asking the panel to request that the Trump administration pursue an FBI probe of the explosive allegations against Kavanaugh and delay a final Senate confirmation vote for up to a week to allow the investigation to run its course.

Flake’s action came a day after the Judiciary Committee’s jarring and emotional hearing into the allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high schools students in Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Flake’s action put the confirmation prospects for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, in further jeopardy in a Senate only narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Republican Senate leaders agreed to Flake’s demand but the White House would have to direct the FBI to act. Trump said earlier he would rely on the Senate’s decision about how to move forward.

I think the White House will have to direct the FBI to act, otherwise a could will keep hanging over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It sounds like Trump may have been given a choice of this or insufficient votes in support of the nomination.

US Supreme Court nomination going ‘nuclear’

As predicted Senate Democrats blocked the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court  to fill a vacancy that wasn’t filled last year because Republicans blocked President Obama’s nomination.

So the Republicans are resorting to a rule change to override the need for a 60 vote majority, often referred to as ‘the nuclear option’ – a move enabled by Democrats in 2013 that allowed them to ram through lower court nominations.

I don’t know why the Democrats didn’t try going nuclear last year, perhaps they thought it would look too bad in election year.

But the Republicans don’t care how it looks now, they just want to win over the nomination.

The BBC covers this in ‘Nuclear’ showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

Republicans have taken the historic step of changing US Senate rules in order to ram through confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

They invoked the “nuclear option” after Democrats used a tactic known as a filibuster for the first time in half a century to block the nominee.

Denver appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch is now set to be approved on Friday.

The move will leave Congress even more plagued by gridlock. Republican John McCain said: “Bad day for democracy.”

At stakes is ideological control of the nation’s highest court, which has the final say on some of the most controversial US legal issues, from gun control to abortion to election financing to workers’ and LGBT rights.

Given the sweeping power of the Supreme Court – it touches on every facet of American life – the stakes have become too high for little things like tradition and consensus-building to merit consideration.

Thursday was about the exercise of raw power. Republicans had the votes, and they wanted – they needed – their man on the high court to preserve their conservative majority.

The legislative manoeuvre – called the nuclear option because it is so extreme – enables Mr Gorsuch to be approved by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans control 52 seats.

After falling five votes short on Thursday of the 60 needed to confirm Mr Gorsuch, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell retaliated by voting 52-48 along party lines to rewrite the rules.

The legislative manoeuvre – called the nuclear option because it is so extreme – enables Mr Gorsuch to be approved by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans control 52 seats.

Given the sweeping power of the Supreme Court – it touches on every facet of American life – the stakes have become too high for little things like tradition and consensus-building to merit consideration.

Thursday was about the exercise of raw power. Republicans had the votes, and they wanted – they needed – their man on the high court to preserve their conservative majority.

So much for a non-partisan judiciary, but trying to slant the Supreme Court politically is nothing new in the US. Allowing politicians to select judges is doomed to be abused.

More from the BBC on this:

The ‘shining city upon a hill whose beaconlight guides freedom-loving people everywhere’ (Ronald Reagan) was already badly tarnished has found a way to set a worse example of democratic abuse.

People’s Party Roskill nomination approved

Roshan Nauhria, president of the NZ People’s party, has had his nomination approved for the Mount Roskill by-election.

roshannauhrianomination

NZ People’s Party President nomination approved

Roshan Nauhria is thrilled to have had his nomination for candidate in the upcoming Mt Roskill By-Election approved by the Electoral Commission this afternoon. “This is an important first step in seeing real representation for the people of Mt Roskill and I’m looking forward to what the campaign trail will bring over the next few weeks”.

Hot on the heels of a successful party launch on Saturday night that saw over 300 supporters gather at Mt Roskill’s Fickling Convention centre the candidate promises a positive focus on the campaign trail. “I don’t just want to look at the issues that are challenging, I want to look at what the People of Mt Roskill are doing well at and enhance those aspects. It’s in this approach I believe we will find strong solutions”.

Mr Nauhria has already been out on the streets of the electorate talking to business owners and community groups as well as door knocking but found that a supermarket carpark yesterday had sparked an overwhelming result. “I started talking to one person and before I knew it there was more and more people. Who was I to turn them away? I have always listened to people when they have come to me and my own community know that I have done whatever I can to get a good result for them. Now that I’ve made it public that I want to do this for all of Mt Roskill I am having a large number and wide array of people come to me”.

Despite the topics of conversation being varied Mr Nauhria believes that the people of Mt Roskill are focused on a handful of main issues. “Law and order is the main concern I hear about and there is a feeling that equality of safety is not being extended to the whole community. MPs working in the electorate have had their chance and not delivered, Mt Roskill wants change”.

This will add some interest to the contest between the National and Labour candidates. It’s hard to know whose vote it will affect the most.

It’s possible there could be a sizeable ‘pox on both Labour and National’ vote, and NZ First immigration policies may not be very popular in Mount Roskill, although if their last election candidate and now list MP Mahesh Bindra stands that may mean an unprecedented three Indian born candidates (National’s candidate is Parmjeet Parmar).

Labour’s Michael Wood may feel like the odd one out.

It will ensure plenty of attention is given to immigration issues in an electorate with over 40% of voters overseas.

It will also given an indication of how much support the NZ People’s Party might expect in next year’s general election.

Cruz and Kasich versus Trump

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have come to an agreement to compete less against each other to try and limit Donald Trump’s accumulation of delegates.

ODT (ex Reuters): Cruz, Kasich reach ‘stop-Trump’ deal

Republican White House rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a deal to stay out of each other’s way in some upcoming state primaries in hopes of blocking front-runner Donald Trump from winning the party’s presidential nomination.

Cruz’s campaign said in a statement he would focus on Indiana and give Kasich a clearer shot in Oregon and New Mexico, states where the Ohio governor expects to do well. Kasich, in turn, agreed to shift resources west and away from Indiana.

The Indiana primary is on May 3, Oregon’s is May 17 and New Mexico’s June 7.

That may make those states more head to head contests, but voters who dislike establishment orientated political deals may rebel against it.

Trump has won the most state nominating contests, but he has a tough path to earn the 1237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. The Cruz and Kasich campaigns believe their agreement to cede states where the other candidate appears strong could help limit Trump’s ability to win more delegates.

Some Republican strategists who oppose Trump have been calling for such a deal for weeks. The question for Cruz and Kasich is whether their agreement is too late.

If no candidate has enough support by the first vote at the Republican National Convention in July, many delegates will be allowed to switch sides on subsequent ballots.

There was no way Kasich could compete on pre-convention delegates, and it Cruz has given up trying as well:

Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said Trump, who has offended women, Hispanics and other groups with controversial statements, would lose a general election contest against the eventual Democratic nominee in the November 8 election.

“Our goal is to have an open convention in Cleveland, where we are confident a candidate capable of uniting the party and winning in November will emerge as the nominee,” Kasich chief strategist John Weaver said in a statement.

They aim to use the convoluted Republican nomination system to bypass popular vote to beat Trump.

Not surprisingly Trump has blasted this.

Politico in Cruz and Kasich team up to stop Trump:

Trump fired back late Sunday on Twitter, writing, “Wow, just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!”

He added, for good measure: “Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are mathematically dead and totally desperate. Their donors & special interest groups are not happy with them. Sad!”

If Trump fails to get the necessary 1237 delegates and it comes down to a new ball game at the convention it could be that Kasich, trailing the other two by a large margin, could become the favoured contender.

Trump talks of/up riots

Donald Trump is widely seen as a very adept user of publicity and he has been successful at pushing political buttons and tapping into an angry electorate.

He is now talking of riots if he misses out on the republican nomination. Is he deliberately talking up riots?

NZ Herald: Donald Trump says he’ll skip debate, warns of possible convention riots

Fresh off three more primary victories, Donald Trump said he’ll blow off the next Republican presidential debate and warned of “riots” if power-brokers deny him the nomination at the convention even if he’s leading in the delegate count.

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Trump said on CNN on Wednesday. “I think you’d have riots.”

“I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen,” Trump said, adding the outcome would “disenfranchise” his supporters.

While Trump appears to be carefully trying to distance himself blame of riots should they happen the fact that he is publicly suggesting them as a possibility – and a justified possibility – it’s hard to believe he isn’t deliberately talking up the threat of riots, if not suggesting and encouraging them.

It could easily be seen as an insidious political threat of or incitement for violence if he doesn’t get his way.

UPDATE: Newstalk ZB is more blunt- Trump: Pick me or there will be riots

 

Trump plays birther card

Donald Trump has played the ‘birther’ card before, against Barack Obama.

And he’s just tried the same trick against Ted Cruz in the Republican race for presidential nomination.

Donald Trump Goes ‘Birther’ On Ted Cruz

First Donald Trump took aim at rival Ted Cruz’s evangelical credentials. Now he’s questioning whether the Canadian-born Texas senator is even eligible for the White House.

“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump said of Cruz’s birthplace and citizenship in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”

This is another Trump sideshow. He must be feeling some pressure.

Back in 2011, when Trump first floated a GOP presidential run, he famously questioned whether President Obama was actually born in Hawaii.

After the Trump-fueled controversy over Obama’s birthplace, the question over Cruz’s was a natural one that’s already come up. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, in 1970 while his parents were working in the oil industry. Though his dad is from Cuba, his mother was a U.S. citizen, having been born in Delaware.

Experts say there is no question about Cruz’s eligibility.

Legal scholars have agreed that Cruz and the other candidates before him would indeed be eligible for the White House. Neal Katyal, who was acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, and Paul Clement, who was the solicitor general under George W. Bush, wrote in the Harvard Law Review that “there is no question” Cruz is eligible and that “”Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a ‘natural born Citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution” and the “Naturalization Act of 1790.”

The possibility that Cruz may not be eligible for the White House is something that Trump himself even dismissed last fall.

“I hear it was checked out by every attorney and every which way, and I understand Ted is in fine shape,” Trump told ABC News last September of his rival’s constitutional eligibility because of his birthplace.

And Trump has previously accepted Cruz doesn’t have an eligibility problem.

But the latest reversal comes as Cruz is seriously threatening Trump’s lead in Iowa and elsewhere — especially with evangelical voters critical to winning the Hawkeye State’s caucuses on Feb. 1.

Playing the birther card may play to the far right that seems to be excited about Trump but I doubt that it will help him gain wider support that will be crucial if he is to succeed.