Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank lavishes praise on Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for voting yes on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The six committee Republicans who voted against Kagan, Milbank writes, “have become so reflexive in their opposition to Obama that they are distorting their constitutional duties.”
Exhibit A for Milbank is the fact that three Republican senators — Kyl, Cornyn and Coburn — were not in the room when the Kagan vote took place. Their votes against Kagan were delivered on their behalf by ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions:
As the Judiciary Committee held its vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Tuesday afternoon, the seats on either side of [Lindsey] Graham were empty. Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John Cornyn (Tex.), along with Tom Coburn (Okla.), showed their contempt for President Obama and his nominee by skipping the vote — just as they had done 51 weeks earlier for the vote on Sonia Sotomayor. “Mr. Kyl?” the clerk called out. “No by proxy,” answered the ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions (Ala.). “Mr. Cornyn?” Behind the empty black armchair, a Cornyn aide made a thumbs-down gesture. “No by proxy,” Sessions said. “Mr. Coburn?” “No by proxy.”
Reading Milbank, one might get the impression that only Republicans voted by proxy on the Kagan nomination. But anyone watching the committee meeting heard chairman Patrick Leahy say, “Aye by proxy” not once but twice. As it turns out, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin also weren’t in the room when the vote was taken, and Leahy voted on their behalf. If you’re skeptical, you can watch the video on the Judiciary Committee website (the vote is at 160:00 in the video), or you can check the transcript below. All of which leads to a question: Were Feinstein and Durbin showing their contempt for President Obama and his nominee?
Here is the transcript:
LEAHY: The clerk will call the roll. CLERK: Mr. Kohl. KOHL: Aye. CLERK: Ms. Feinstein. LEAHY: Aye by proxy. CLERK: Mr. Feingold. FEINGOLD: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Specter. SPECTER: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Schumer. SCHUMER: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Durbin. LEAHY: Aye by proxy. CLERK: Mr. Cardin. CARDIN: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Whitehouse. WHITEHOUSE: Aye. CLERK: Ms. Klobuchar. KLOBUCHAR: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Kaufman. KAUFMAN: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Franken. FRANKEN: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Sessions. SESSIONS: No. CLERK: Mr. Hatch. HATCH: No. CLERK: Mr. Grassley. GRASSLEY: No. CLERK: Mr. Kyl. SESSIONS: No by proxy. CLERK: Mr. Graham. GRAHAM: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Cornyn. SESSIONS: No by proxy. CLERK: Mr. Coburn. SESSIONS: No by proxy. CLERK: Mr. Chairman. LEAHY: Aye. CLERK: Mr. Chairman, the votes are thirteen yea, six nay. LEAHY: The nominee is agreed to and [will] be reported to the floor.
So in the end, two Democrats voted by proxy, and three Republicans voted by proxy. To Milbank, that shows GOP contempt for the president and for Kagan. To most everyone else, it shows nothing at all.