Courtesy of The LA Times:
Justice Antonin Scalia had been dead only a few hours when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate wouldn’t act on any replacement proposed by President Obama. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
This is self-serving sophistry. The American people do have a voice in any nomination Obama makes. They “spoke” when they elected him to a second term that has 11 months remaining. His authority to nominate Supreme Court justices is no more diminished by his supposed lame-duck status than any of his other constitutional powers.
The Senate also has a constitutional duty: to consider presidential nominees expeditiously. A long vacancy is undesirable in part because a court comprised of only eight members raises the possibility of 4-4 decisions that, while they affirm a lower court’s decision, don’t create a national precedent.
The obstructionism being threatened by Senate Republicans is outrageous. It would be equally so if the circumstances were reversed and a Republican president in the last year of his term were sending a nominee to a Democratic Senate. That nominee also would deserve prompt consideration.
This should be screamed from the roof tops by the media. The Senate should be shamed into doing its job. The media should be shamed into doing its job. As it is, Media Matters is reporting the following:
Note that Republicans and their conservative fans in the media aren’t telling Obama that a particular nominee he selects to become the next justice is flawed and will likely be rejected after hearings are held. Republicans are telling Obama that there’s no point in even bothering to make a selection because the Senate will reject anyone the president names. Period. The seat will remain vacant for an entire year. That is the definition of radical. But the press still looks away.
For instance, Politicoreported the president “was facing the choice between setting off a nasty brawl with Congress by seizing the best chance in a generation to flip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, or simply punting.” The Politico headline claimed Obama had chosen to “fight” Republicans.
But Obama faces no real “choice,” and he isn’t the one who decided to pick a “fight.” As president of the United States he’s obligated to fill Supreme Court vacancies.
The New York Timesstressed Scalia’s death had sparked “an immediate partisan battle,” suggesting the warfare ran both ways. But how, by doing what he’s supposed to do as president, is Obama sparking a “partisan battle”?
If Obama eventually decided to nominate an extremely liberal justice to replace the extremely conservative Scalia, then yes, that could accurately be described as sparking a “partisan battle.” But what could be “partisan” about the president simply doing what the Constitution instructs him to do?
Meanwhile, the Associated Press framed the unfolding story as Obama’s announcement being “a direct rebuttal to Senate Republicans,” without noting the Republican demand that the a Supreme Court Justice’s seat sit empty for at least a year is without recent precedent.
And BuzzFeed suggested Scalia’s vacancy is different because the justice was, “as one Republican put it, ‘a rock solid conservative seat,’ and given the divisions on the court conservatives will be adamant that one of their own replace him.”
You see what they are doing here? They are already trying to blame President Obama for carrying out his duties. If the Republicans are allowed to get away with this blatant disrespect for President Obama and the office he holds, then democracy in America is dead.
They will have succeeded in breaking the government.