In 2016, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court. In a historical break with precedent, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to confirm Garland to the Court, or even hold the traditional confirmation hearings.
In doing so, he dredged up a 1992 speech from Joe Biden, who was then a US Senator for Delaware. Back then, Biden had floated the idea that the president (at the time, George H. W. Bush) should wait until after the presidential and congressional elections before appointing a Supreme Court judge. Justifying his inaction in 1992, Senator McConnell cited the ‘Biden Rule’ in speeches, as if it were an established congressional custom. The seat remained open until after the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch instead.
Here in the United Kingdom in 2019 we are still debating how we Brexit, and who should have the final say on our withdrawal agreement ‘deal’ for leaving the EU. There is a lot of support for a confirmatory ‘People’s Vote’ referendum, to ratify a withdrawal agreement. Such a plebiscite might also include one or both of ‘No Deal’ and ‘Remain’ on the ballot too.
Back in 2015, prior to the 2016 E.U. referendum campaign, one proponent of a confirmatory referendum was… Dominic Cummings. He told the Economist there was a “strong democratic case” for a confirmatory vote and wrote similar arguments on his blog.
Mr Cummings is now employed at No. 10 Downing Street. He and his man Boris Johnson have deployed a clever communications approach to the inconvenient European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Its also known as the Benn Act, but Mr Johnson has taken to (inaccurately) calling it the ‘Surrender Act.’
Bestowing a name on something is a tried and tested political tactic, as Mitch McConnell showed us in 2016.
Well, two (or three) can play at that game. Why not re-brand the idea of a ‘People’s Vote’ as the ‘Cummings Plan’?