About a month ago, the Inside Washington The newsletter (subscribe here) named Sen. Mitt Romney the most useful Republican senator for his willingness to make arrangements for Covid-19 assistance as he weighed whether to vote to confirm Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. A friend of the newsletter suggested making the most useful and useless person in Washington a regular feature, and we went with it.
Both titles are bipartisan—and for inaugural week, we gave the “most useless” title to two lawmakers.
On the Democratic side is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Earlier this week, the Democrat leader insisted efforts to get his party’s bill to codify Roe v Wade to say goodbye, not just be great. But with roe Democrats’ failed attempt to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act now looked moribund after a leaked draft court opinion showed the majority was poised to strike it down.
That was even before Senator Joe Manchin, the moody West Virginia Democrat who loves to drive a stake through the heart of his party’s plans, announced he would vote no. It could be argued that Mr. Manchin is responsible for the bill not achieving a simple majority in the upper chamber — but as Majority Leader, Mr. Schumer’s job is to know how all of his members will vote before he introduces a bill the floor.
Instead, he either knew this was going to fail and let it happen anyway, or proceeded without knowing how Mr. Manchin would vote.
The really annoying thing is that Mr. Schumer knew this was going to happen because it had happened before. Still, he protracted the affair — and instead of simply taking the Republicans on the record, he managed to demonstrate that he couldn’t get all his senators on the same page and proved that the Democratic Party just doesn’t have the votes to break a filibuster or even change the rules.
At the end of the vote, Vice President Kamala Harris said the vote “makes it clear that a priority for everyone interested in this issue should be electing pro-choice Democrats.” But it also highlighted how disastrous it was that Democrats failed in two crucial Senate elections in 2020: North Carolina (the Democratic leader infamously said his ideal candidate would be someone raising money in a windowless basement) and Maine .
Speaking of which, our second dubious honor goes to Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins.
When the draft opinion was leaked last week, Ms Collins complained that “it would be totally inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and at our meetings in my office” – as if Donald Trump or any Republican president were appointing a colonel became court judge, not entirely determined to overturn the decision.
Ms Collins’ feigned naivety was only matched as she searched for excuses not to vote for the Democrats’ bill. While Democrats might have made headway if they had voted on the alternative abortion legislation she proposed with GOP moderator Lisa Murkowski, or even allowed Ms. Collins to make changes, the fact that they changed their opposition showed that they continued to do so circumstances openly announced that she had already done so considered how she would act.
Similarly, if she had known the Democrats would oppose her legislation, she should have started reaching out to them last week to make some sort of adjustment. Instead, she told PBS NewsHour’s Lisa DesJardins that she was trying to come up with something new compromise law in collaboration with Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Mr Kaine – who in another world could have been at President Hillary Clinton’s side as she nominated three judges – appeared upbeat when speaking to your dispatcher earlier this week. “I think she’s dying to codify roe and Casey‘ he said of his colleague, suggesting they could find a way forward, although ‘she doesn’t like some aspects of WHPA that I like.’
Unfortunately, it appears Mr Kaine has more faith in the process than Ms Collins. Speaking to her dispatcher on Tuesday, she tried to tone down expectations: “Obviously I think it’s going to be difficult to reach a consensus.”