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Congressional Corner With Jim McGovern

Congressman Jim McGovern
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public domain
Congressman Jim McGovern

Different election year, different rules.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, a Democrat from the second district, speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This conversation was recorded October 15.

Alan Chartock: We're here the Congressional Corner speaking with one of my favorite people in the world, Jim McGovern from Massachusetts’ beautiful second district. Okay. Welcome Congressman, always great to talk to you. I love talking to you because nobody is more outspoken than you are so let's get with it.

Representative Chris McGovern: Okay. Okay.

We're speaking just after the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings. What should the Democrats do about her addition to the court, Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy, and the question of expanding the court?

Well, it's a disgrace. I mean, the hypocrisy is unbelievable. Mitch McConnell would not allow Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's nominee to have a hearing, because he said it was too close to the election, that was 10 months before the election. And here we are, as people are voting, and some thousands of people have voted, and the Senate is now rushing through the nomination of this very ultra-conservative nominee. And I really worry about her impact on the court. I worry about, not just about Roe vs. Wade, but about marriage equality. And I mean, workers’ rights, voting rights, civil rights, not to mention that Trump has been bragging that he wants her on the court because he believes that the court will ultimately decide who is the next president of the United States. So there's obviously a conflict of interest there. So the numbers are what they are, I mean, McConnell has the votes. So I expect that she will be approved, although I think it is a disgrace. And I think it's doubly disgrace, because what the Senate should be doing right now, is figuring out a way to get some stimulus and some relief to people all across this country who have been struggling as a result of this pandemic. But that's not a priority. It's getting somebody who's going to overturn the last 70 years of social progress in America. That's their priority. And really, it's twisted. I mean, we can fight it, we can scream about it. I don't believe we have the votes, unfortunately, in the Senate to stop it. I wish we did.

So what is the antidote?

Well, the antidote is that we elect a Democratic president and we elect a Democratic Congress, who can legislate things like Roe vs Wade, legislate equality bills that will become law, the law of the land, to basically not have to rely as much on the courts upholding a decision. So that's number one. I mean, there are some people who talk about well we should stack the courts or this and that. To be honest with you, my inclination has always been against that, because the Republicans win the next time and they do the same thing. Where does that end? Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t think it was a very good idea. But look, given what's at stake, I think we all have to probably keep an open mind about what our options are. But, if Mitch McConnell actually followed the traditions and rules, the way previous congresses have, with the exception of Brett Kavanaugh, I think we would be having a different discussion. And the idea that you can nominate a Supreme Court justice with just, you know, 50 votes or 51 votes. And because the, the Vice President can always break a tie ensures that we don't get a balanced judge. I’ll also say, I've been watching some of these hearings. I'm not even sure what the value of these hearings are. I mean, for the two days, she's been testifying, she's answered no questions. Obviously I don't expect her to say how she will come down on a particular case, but you mean to me can’t answer a basic question as to whether you think voter suppression is wrong, or whether you think the President has a right or doesn't have a right to postpone the date of an election? I mean, it's not about a case or just general philosophy. Like, what do you believe? She was not forthcoming on that. What we know about her is what she's written, and what she's written is quite extreme on the far right, and I don't think she is the right justice for this country in the year 2020. And I don't think she appreciates the fact that the Constitution is a living document. And when you start interpreting the constitution strictly as it was when it was first enacted, I mean, women didn’t have the right to vote back then. So to not appreciate that, I think is very worrisome to me.

Well, Jim McGovern, I have to say, I watched too. And I thought that the Democrats were very smart. After all, your House, the House of Representatives went blue based on health care. And there was this false narrative that they kept trying to put over about being anti-Catholic, which is ridiculous, and went nowhere. But I thought the Democrats did very well with raising the issue that people are gonna lose their healthcare, and therefore, it wasn't a total waste.

No, in that respect, I mean, it, it was helpful, because, again, obviously, the other reason why the President has put her on there is because he couldn't get a Republican Senate and a Republican House, when he had it to overturn the Affordable Care Act. And so, the only option he has to try to obliterate it is to go to the Supreme Court. And if, in fact, she decides to overturn the Affordable Care Act, that means people with preexisting conditions will no longer have any protections. And by the way, the millions and millions and millions and millions of people that have been infected with COVID-19, now have preexisting conditions. So their future insurance is in jeopardy. We can keep your kids on your insurance until they’re 26. That goes away. And the notion that a priority of anybody, I don't care what your politics are, of anybody in the middle of a pandemic, is to undo healthcare is grotesque. I don't know who thinks like that. But yet this president working with Mitch McConnell, that is exactly what they're trying to do. And I used to think that no matter what your politics were, if you ran for office, your goal was to help protect and improve the lives of the people that you represent. I mean, these people are disrupting the lives of their own constituents. So healthcare is a central issue here. Again, I just don't know what options we have to stop a nomination, given the fact that the Republicans already have committed enough votes to be able to have her squeaked by.

I only have two minutes. But let me ask you this. Maybe we have to continue this in our next conversation. But let's just say, Trump goes to the Supreme Court, his Supreme Court now. And those foolish people now turn around and say, okay, the law is that we're now declaring that because we don't want anybody voting by mail, and therefore Trump wins, and they voted six to three, what are the options of the American people?

But you know, if that happens, not only would Trump win, but Putin wins because we cease to be a democratic country. I mean, people cease to have a voice in who is president and who makes the decisions. It’s so unbelievable to me that we will get to that point. But clearly, that's what he's thinking. I mean, he's thinking and basically trying to not count all the votes. Or, and there's another scenario out there where we know for a fact that the Republican National Committee is working with Republican legislators to try to have them even if Biden wins a state, you know, only sent forward a Republican elector who will vote for Trump. So that means if Biden won Wisconsin, the state legislature could potentially put an elector forward who would vote for Trump, again, to overturn a democratic election. I mean, this is what happens in, you know, authoritarian regimes. What happens in Russia, Turkey, Philippines, it’s not supposed to happen here. And again, I hope that on election night, if it is clear that Biden's has won, that thoughtful Republicans will come forward and say, okay, it's over. It's over. And Donald Trump, you got to go. And maybe it's wishful thinking, because I've been hoping for some of these Republicans to stand up time and time and time and time again, but they haven’t. But literally this this system of government, the nature of our democracy dies, if they try to overturn the rule of the people.

It's wonderful to talk to a guy who knows a lot about this. Jim McGovern, Jim, keep doing the wonderful work you have been doing as the chair of the Rules Committee, and we thank you so much for being with us. And congratulations on all you're doing.

Thank you.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.