- If Clinton wins, Republicans are threatening investigations and blocked nominees
- Clinton says she wants to be a 'president for everybody' and will reach out to GOP leaders
Washington (CNN)So much for the honeymoon period.
The election is 12 days away but Republicans are already promising years of investigations and blocked nominees if Hillary Clinton wins.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he has lined up enough material from Clinton's four years as secretary of state for two years of probes.
"It's a target-rich environment," Chaffetz told The Washington Post. "Even before we get to Day One, we've got two years' worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain't good."
Then there's the Supreme Court vacancy.
Republicans have said for months they won't act on President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the opening left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death because they want the winner of the presidential race to fill that vacancy. Now, one senator says the GOP should consider blocking any Clinton nominee, leaving the nation's high court with just eight members.
"There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in Colorado on Wednesday, in remarks first reported by The Washington Post. "I would note, just recently, that Justice (Stephen) Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That's a debate that we are going to have."
The comments offer a potential preview of what Clinton's relationship with Congress could look like if she wins the presidency. Democrats are poised to make gains on Capitol Hill and could retake the Senate. That would likely result in a more conservative Republican conference on Capitol Hill that might not be interested in working closely with Clinton.
For her part, Clinton said Wednesday she wants to be "president for everybody."
"I certainly intend to reach out to Republicans and independents, the elected leadership of the Congress," she said aboard her campaign plane.
Trouble with Democrats
Clinton could also have plenty of trouble with her own party. Even if Democrats retake the Senate, they won't have the 60 votes needed to shut down filibusters. And their roster will include several members who represent traditionally Republican states and may need to show independence from a Clinton White House.
Democrats are already using the comments from Chaffetz and Cruz against the GOP.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told CNN in a statement that "Republicans are pretending like they haven't been investigating Secretary Clinton for years ever since she announced that she was running for president, including everything from Benghazi to emails to the Clinton Foundation."
"It's no exaggeration to say that on the first day Secretary Clinton walks into the White House, Republicans will have already investigated her more than any other president in history," Cummings said.
"The American people want us to solve their problems, but House Republicans are doing exactly the opposite," he said. "They have spent six years and squandered millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to attack their political targets instead of working together in a bipartisan way to seek constructive reforms to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal programs."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also mocked Chaffetz over his remarks.
"I saw comments from Congressman Chaffetz, he of the gmail account on his business cards, vowing to engage in congressional investigations that actually don't have anything to do with the Clinton White House," he said.
Earnest compared Chaffetz to Rep. Darrell Issa, who recently featured Obama on a campaign mailer touting legal protections for sexual assault victims, which Issa co-sponsored and Obama signed into law.
Chaffetz, Earnest said, is using "the same strategy that Darrell Issa tried to pursue when he served, when he preceded Congressman Chaffetz in that role. And it did not benefit Mr. Issa's personal political prospects."
"He has now been faced with a scenario where he went from calling the President one of the most corrupt presidents in history, to now featuring President Obama prominently on a mailer in support of his campaign," Earnest said. "So he looks pretty ridiculous. And Mr. Chaffetz seems to be well down the same path."
Some Republicans reject Cruz's idea
Some influential Republicans are rejecting calls to block Clinton's Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, told CNN he strongly disagrees with the prospect floated by Cruz of blocking Clinton's nominees -- and said he doesn't think there will be wide support for the concept among Senate Republicans.
"You will not be surprised -- I do not agree," said Flake, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. "There is a difference between what might be constitutional and what you can do politically. ...I think leaving a vacancy for up to four years is not why we are here."
Asked about how much support there might be in the GOP conference for Cruz's position, he said, "I can't imagine there are too many that feel that way."
"I think there are enough people who do not see it as the Senate's proper role to hold somebody indefinitely," Flake said.
The first-term senator said he spoke recently to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get "on-the-record" that he would oppose such an approach and that he didn't "detect" any interest from McConnell in such a blockade.
Flake has made headlines in recent months for his heavy criticism of Donald Trump's candidacy. The senator said he's been worried about the blockade talk gaining steam because he was approached a couple of months ago by a "pretty well informed guy" who is part of the grassroots conservative movement in Arizona who asked him if he would be willing to hold Clinton's nominees for four years.
"I said 'no,'" Flake said.
Flake said Cruz and others can read the language of the Constitution to mean that the Senate is not bound to act in a timely way on a Supreme Court nominee. "But there's a question of what we should do and what we feel our role is, and what you can do politically and what you can't. On both of those counts you have a hard time going ahead."
Flake isn't the only senator to reject Cruz's notion.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, recently pulled back from his own comment that Republicans would "be united against any Supreme Court nominee" that Clinton put forth.
In a statement provided to CNN, McCain spokeswoman Rachael Dean sought to clarify the senator's position.
"Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees. That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career."
GOP sought to stop Obama too
The early warning shots at Clinton are reminiscent of Republican efforts to stymie Obama at the outset of his presidency. The difference: Those calls came after Obama was already in office.
In the heat of the 2009 health care reform battle, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint famously declared: "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
The following year, McConnell, then the Senate minority leader, called Obama's defeat in 2012 his top priority.
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell said in an interview with the National Journal.
He explained in a speech after the GOP wave in the 2010 midterms that he was bent on defeating Obama because it was the only way to shepherd conservative legislation into law.
"If our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things," McConnell said.
"We can hope the President will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday's election," he said. "But we can't plan on it. And it would be foolish to expect that Republicans will be able to completely reverse the damage Democrats have done as long as a Democrat holds the veto pen."