Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Stalling vs. declining to act

Curious phrasing in the Illinois news segment dropped into NPR’s Morning Edition this morning: Senate Democrats are seeking to stall any nomination to the Supreme Court. But: In 2016, Senate Republicans declined to act on Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. The verbs caught my ear.

Merriam-Webster gives the following definitions of stall. As an intranstive verb: “to play for time,” “delay.” As a transitive verb: “to hold off, divert, or delay by evasion or deception.”

To stall a nomination: that phrasing is far more unsavory than decline to act. But Mitch McConnell and company did not decline to act in 2016: their inaction was of course itself a form of action. And a form of stalling: they refused even to start the car.

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