The Klobuchar Kriterion

Senator Amy Klobuchar — Minnesota’s own presidential candidate — proudly joined all but three of the Senate’s other Democrats to vote yesterday against the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General. Her tweet below provides the short form of her stated rationale.

Klobuchar gave a speech on the floor of the Senate in which she provided the long form of her stated rationale (below). As Klobuchar noted at the outset of her floor speech, she had already stated her opposition to Barr in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thankfully, Barr was confirmed yesterday over Klobuchar’s opposition. He was a stellar nominee and should be an excellent Attorney General. He is now one of the most well qualified candidates ever to serve as Attorney General. Among other things, Barr has previous experience as Attorney General, the last time around under President George H.W. Bush. On that occasion the Senate confirmed Barr by a voice vote after he cleared the Judiciary Committee by unanimous vote.

Klobuchar predicated her opposition to Barr on her disagreement with Barr’s view of executive power. She purports to maintain a more limited view of the president’s constitutional authority (a view that she never advanced during the Obama administration). Despite her reputation as a moderate, Klobuchar reliably toes the Democratic Party line on the thinnest of pretexts (Barr’s “expansive view of executive power”), as in this case.

When a Democrat next wins a presidential election, perhaps in 2020, he or she will need to staff his Cabinet and fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The Klobuchar Kriterion establishes senatorial disagreement with a nominee’s views as fair ground on which to oppose the nominees. Indeed, Klobuchar’s floor speech alludes to her previous opposition to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She says her view of executive power differs from theirs.

If the Klobuchar Kriterion applies to a Democratic president’s likely nominees, why should any conservative Republican ever vote in favor of their their confirmation (for any reason other than pure political calculation)? Someone should ask Senator Klobuchar and her fellow candidates to answer the question.