U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, on Tuesday, gripped the grenade he's clutching and pulled the pin. It's only a matter of time before, one way or another, it blows up in the GOP's collective face.
Iowa's senior senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee fired off a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating unequivocally that his committee refuses to vet any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Barack Obama. The committee won't hold a hearing until January, the letter states, when a new president has taken office. Every Republican on Grassley's committee signed the ill-conceived announcement of a wholesale dereliction of duty.
The future of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, the letter correctly asserts. Conservatives have, for years, enjoyed a 5-4 majority in chamber. And, with Antonin Scalia's death, that dominance is squarely at risk.
But McConnell's and Grassley's political game could, in the end, be one of the greatest own-goals in recent history.
Donald Trump is exuding a whiff of inevitability, following a resounding victory in Nevada's Republican caucus. He thrashed the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio in New Hampshire. He dominated Sen. Ted Cruz among South Carolina's heavily evangelical GOP electorate. He's heading into Super Tuesday with advantages across the map. A loss in Texas could end Cruz's bid once and for all. Florida is equally make-or-break for Rubio.
Pundits and party insiders alike have long predicted Trump's eventual demise, which has never materialized.
At this point, Grassley and McConnell are, in essence, holding a seat on the Supreme Court for a Trump administration, a man whose personal politics are as varied as fish in the Amazon and whose campaign offers nothing but rage. The anger that the Republican Party incubated throughout Obama's tenure might now be its undoing. And, by most measures, Trump loses to Democratic front-runner/heir-apparent Hillary Clinton.
But wait, there's more.
Polls also show that the majority of Americans oppose the obvious obstruction now under way in the Senate. The block-anything-and-everything policy was annoying when it was contained in the House. Now the very tea party politics that shuttered the government has leached into the Senate, shepherded by osmotic agent and failing presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a member of Grassley's Judiciary Committee. Suddenly, the legislative body -- designed to provide a check to the more populist House's shenanigans -- is just another cesspool of ridiculous stonewalling. And Grassley, a longtime leader, is now just another bricklayer.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., can't flee fast enough from his peers' constitutional hijacking. After a few days of silence, Kirk -- widely considered one of the GOP's most at-risk incumbents in November -- said that the Senate has a duty to vet a president's nominee, regardless of timing. Kirk understands the peril within which Grassley and McConnell are placing Senate Republicans.
November never looked like a good general election for the Senate GOP. Kirk is among several purple-state Republicans who might be destined for ouster. Those following McConnell and Grassley's lead are getting hammered by their Democratic opponents. Those breaking ranks must still grapple with bolstered Democratic turnout, the probable result of such high-profile obstruction.
If McConnell and Grassley get their way, a Clinton nominee could very easily sit before a Democratic Judiciary Committee. Talk about an exercise in self-flagellation.
Barack Obama, twice elected by the voting public, knows the score. He knows what is and isn't possible within the Senate. As such, any serious nominee put forth would be fairly centrist. Handing Clinton and Senate Democrats the keys in January would have far more liberal results.
Grassley is doing more than just ducking his duty. He's probably partaking in the GOP's slow political suicide.