Path 2

Wednesday, Feb 17 2016

Local Papers Have 3 Words For Obstructionist GOP Senators: Do Your Job

Feb 17, 2016

Shocker: refusing to do your job isn’t very popular with the people who hired you.

Pressure is mounting against GOP senators who are blindly supporting Mitch McConnell’s plan to not even consider the president’s Supreme Court nominee and shirk their constitutional duties. Senators John McCain, Mark Kirk, Chuck Grassley, Kelly Ayotte, Richard Burr, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, and Ron Johnson are feeling the heat as local editorial boards are lining up to tell them one thing: do your job.

The Constitution is also clear on what the Senate has to do. Slow-walking the nomination, stalling it or refusing to acknowledge the need for a ninth justice are not among the listed duties.
The Senate’s job is to provide “advice and consent.”
That means giving the president’s nominee a fair hearing and taking a vote in a timely way.

Republicans in the Senate could use a few more voices of reason. We’re looking at you, Sen. Kirk.
For four days now, Mark Kirk, the junior senator from Illinois,  has declined to answer a simple question: Should the Senate hold confirmation hearings to consider anybody — anybody at all — nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia?
The simple answer is yes. Of course the Senate should. That is their job: To “advise and consent.” Nowhere in the Constitution does it say “hold your breath and hope to die.”

This could have been a “profile in courage” moment for Sen. Grassley. This was an opportunity for our senior senator to be less of a politician and more of a statesman. It was a chance for him to be principled rather than partisan.

He could have made it clear that he favors a Senate vote on the matter — a move that still would enable Republicans to accept or reject the eventual nominee based on merit — but he chose instead to disregard his constitutional duty by rejecting a nominee who hasn’t even been named.

It’s wrong. It’s not unexpected, and it’s not a surprise, but it’s still wrong.

When the high court issues a tie vote, the decision of the federal appeals court involved remains in force. The issue remains undecided. Ayotte and her fellow Republicans are willing to sacrifice judicial progress and the resolution of problems affecting millions of people, preferring partisanship instead.
Ayotte’s hastily issued statement, echoing what is now her party’s line, says no decision should be made until the people speak by voting in November. But the people had their say when they re-elected Obama and when, in this case, they voted for Ayotte. She is not expressing the will of her constituents but the will of her party.
Failure to act on a president’s nomination is, as Democrats argue, a dereliction of duty and a blow against democracy, which requires three co-equal branches of government. Voters should consider such a refusal to perform their sworn constitutional responsibility to advise and consent, not merely obstruct, a disqualification for future Senate office.

Instead, they seem ready to do what Senates don’t do – deny the president and the people a hearing on a Supreme Court nomination, which would deny the country a fully operating Court.
North Carolina’s senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, should recognize this. They should urge McConnell to allow the president’s Supreme Court nomination to proceed. They should evaluate and vote on whomever that nominee is. Do your job, senators. Let the president do his.

Regrettably, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who is seeking re-election this year in a state that Mr. Obama won twice, has adopted his party’s indefensible line. On Monday, Senator Portman cited a non-binding “rule” that says the Senate should not confirm a justice during a presidential election year. But in 1988, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Justice Anthony Kennedy during President Ronald Reagan’s final full year in office.
If President Obama offers a fully qualified, mainstream nominee to the high court — and surely he has neither a reason to fail to do so, nor a lack of meritorious candidates — the Senate owes him the same courtesy now. If Senate Republicans fail to provide it, their contempt for the court will be clear. Their motives will be equally transparent to American voters, immediately and on Election Day.
Well, the American people did have a say. They elected Mr. Obama twice with the expectation that he would appoint someone to the left of the conservative court majority.
But since the senators seem to think they have the power to determine that the most recent presidential election doesn’t count, what of their own most recent elections?
The senators seeking re-election, like Mr. Obama, are in the last year of their terms. But since they were elected in 2010, their last election was even more distant than Mr. Obama’s easy re-election in 2012.
So if their logic holds, the Republican incumbents seeking re-election will not cast any votes at all for the remainder of their terms to ensure that the people will have a more direct voice in those votes by virtue of the upcoming election.
There is no grand principle behind the Republican senators’ defiance of the public will. It is naked obstruction. Mr. Toomey should desist.

Republicans, including Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who faces a difficult re-election battle this fall against former Sen. Russ Feingold, have quickly closed ranks around McConnell. Johnson’s statement Sunday echoed McConnell.
Senate Republicans are betting that slow-walking a nomination will cost them less than risking the fallout from the Republican base this fall if they are perceived to be soft on Obama. And, it’s true, a change in ideological balance on the court is a big deal.
But other “lame duck” presidents have nominated justices, and gotten them confirmed. President Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy to the bench in November 1987, and Kennedy was confirmed Feb. 3, 1988 — an election year and the last year of Reagan’s presidency. The confirmation came after the Senate had rejected two prior nominees. Along with 96 other senators, McConnell voted to confirm Kennedy.
As much as Republicans may wish it were not so, the Constitution still says that presidents serve four years — not three — and it remains silent on when a president becomes a “lame duck.”

Published: Feb 17, 2016

Jump to Content