Thursday, July 18, 2024

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney in January. (Photo: Ninian Reid via Flickr)

Mitt Romney took a principled stand in voting to impeach President Donald Trump, but now will throw away its meaning to rush a Supreme Court justice into office – likely because he hopes the court will overturn Roe v. Wade, which makes abortion legal.

Romney, who once lived in Belmont, was a one-term governor in Massachusetts, serving 2003 to 2007. It was the health care system he enacted here that formed a basis for the federal Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court may also overturn. He was a moderate.

But he’s giving us cause to not bother thinking of him and his moderation too fondly. (If his own run for president in 2007 didn’t do it already.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18, finding him guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Impeachment acts passed the Democrat-controlled House, 230-197 (and with one member voting “present”). The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted Feb. 5, declining to remove Trump from office on the counts in votes that ran 48-52 and 47-53. While that vote on obstruction of Congress was all Democrats, the earlier vote included one Republican: Romney.

“The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said. “What he did … was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

Yet it is clear that Trump is continuing to corrupt elections, and has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of office if he loses: He will claim fraud. To lay the groundwork, the Trump administration and Republicans are creating confusion so the election will wind up in front of the Supreme Court, where it expects to have a conservative majority that will find in favor of Trump. It already has the nominee in Amy Coney Barrett.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made that explicit in a tweet Saturday. “One of the biggest reason we will confirm the nominee before Election Day is to ensure a full nine-Justice majority to resolve any (inevitable) election disputes,” he said.

The reason this is possible is not just that Ruth Bader Ginsburg left a vacancy on the court when she died Sept. 18, but that Republican senators, including Cruz, refused to hear Obama’s bid to replace a Supreme Court justice several months before the election that would replace him. Now they’re rushing to make an appointment with voting just weeks away in an election that could replace Trump.

Romney, who wasn’t a senator at the time of that hypocrisy, now says this about hearing Barrett: “My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent.” 

This conveniently ignores the precedent set by Republicans four years earlier.

And it negates wholly his vote and the principle he cited in February. This too is “an appalling abuse of public trust.” It is “a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values.” It is an example of “corrupting an election to keep oneself in office,” and is still “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine” – all Romney’s words.

But in this case it isn’t just Trump committing the crime; it’s every Republican in the U.S. Senate pushing through this nomination, and that includes Romney.