What others say: Senate needs to act on Supreme Court nomination

  • Saturday, August 13, 2016 2:05pm
  • Opinion

It has been almost six months since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, and almost five months since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the widely respected and centrist chief judge of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to succeed him.

Because of obstructionism by Senate Republicans, however, the Senate is no closer to holding a hearing on Garland’s nomination, much less voting on it. Meanwhile, the court has divided 4 to 4 in some cases, preventing a definitive resolution of important issues including the legality of Obama’s executive action temporarily granting deportation relief and work permits to 4 million immigrants.

Within hours of Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he wouldn’t act on a new nomination by invoking — or, rather, inventing — the principle that a Supreme Court vacancy that occurs in a presidential election year can’t be filled “until we have a new president.” At the Republican National Convention, McConnell put it more bluntly: “I made (a) pledge that Obama would not fill this seat.” If he follows through on that promise, it would leave the court hamstrung by its 4-4 split, possibly through its entire 2016-17 term.

This is shameless partisanship, and it could also be self-defeating. As Obama has warned, continued obstructionism on the Garland nomination could lead to “an endless cycle of more tit for tat (that would) make it increasingly impossible for any president, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.” That’s a message the president and Senate Democrats need to revive when the Senate returns to work after Labor Day.

Given the Republicans’ recalcitrance so far, such pressure might seem pointless. But where principle might not move Senate Republicans to do the right thing, politics might. With Donald Trump lagging in the polls, McConnell and his colleagues are probably asking themselves whether confirming Garland in this Congress wouldn’t be preferable to waiting to see who might be nominated next year by a President Hillary Clinton.

That course would be especially attractive if Clinton won and Garland’s nomination was considered during a postelection lame-duck session. Although Clinton hasn’t said she would renominate Garland if she was elected, she has said “the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history” in pressing the Senate to act on the nomination. Over the weekend, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine replied “absolutely” when he was asked whether the Garland nomination should be taken up in the lame-duck session.

If the Senate takes its responsibility to the Constitution seriously, it will act even sooner than that.

— The Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9, 2016

More in Opinion

Sticky notes filled out in response to the question “Why does Democracy and voting matter?” are photographed on Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alex Koplin)
6 words to define democracy

What words would you use?

File
Opinion: The latest gun regulation bill is nothing to cheer about

The legislation resembles the timid movements of a couple of 6-month old children…

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. in this file photo. (File)
Opinion: The Alaskans with the power to defend America’s democracy

It’s well past time to publicly refute Trump’s lie

File
Opinion: Here’s what I expect of lawmakers in a post-Roe America

I urge lawmakers to codify abortion rights at the state and federal levels.

File
Opinion: Confusion over ranked choice voting persists

Voter confusion over ballot procedures will continue

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Voices of the Peninsula: A vote for Walker/Drygas is a vote for Alaskans

It’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor

This photo shows a return envelop for 2022 special primary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Voices of the Peninsula: Learn how to access your ballot

The recent special primary election was the first time the state conducted an all mail-in ballot election

The Storyknife Writers Retreat in the summer of 2021 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Storyknife: Invest in women writers, read the rewards

Storyknife is committed to providing opportunities to a diversity of writers

Most Read