A Supreme Court Vacancy and Republican Obstructionism

February 16, 2016

With the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the United States Supreme Court loses one of its sharpest conservative minds, opening up a potential swing seat. Filling Justice Scalia’s seat with a more liberal-leaning justice would change the direction of the Court and possibly result in different outcomes for cases that involve challenges to environmental laws, campaign finance, and key social issues.

I look at the Supreme Court as an arbitrator of laws passed by Congress to determine whether the laws pass constitutional muster. I’ve been dismayed several times lately by the level of judicial activism the Court has shown under Chief Justice John Roberts. One of the most glaring examples of this was in reaching out and calling for the court to hear the infamous Citizens United case that has only made the problem of money in politics that much worse.

The Supreme Court has swung back and forth between liberal and conservative majorities since its establishment more than two centuries ago. Some of the Court’s decisions have been dreadful, with the Dred Scott v. Sandford and the above mentioned Citizens United decisions among the most troubling in the Court’s history. Luckily, these ideological pendulum swings have not destroyed the country and our Constitution has preserved.

The Republican leadership of the U.S. Senate and the Republican presidential candidates are demanding a delay in the process of picking a new justice until after the presidential election, forbidding President Obama from fulfilling his constitutional responsibility to make an appointment and are promising to deny any Obama appointee a confirmation.

This is the height of hypocrisy, coming from Senators and candidates who profess to love and defend the Constitution. The President has the obligation and constitutional duty to appoint Supreme Court Justices, even if a seat opened up in the waning months of a presidential term before the next president is inaugurated, and the Senate would have the duty to either confirm or deny the nomination. History verifies that justices have been nominated and confirmed even in the last months of past presidents.

The partisan bickering in Washington and the gridlock it causes sickens most Americans.  Congressional Republicans would rather be obstructionists and deny President Obama any victories rather than accomplish anything substantive on behalf of the people they serve, even such obstructions involve shutting down the government or blocking a Supreme Court confirmation.

Let’s put this partisan divide aside and show respect for our Constitution and the Presidency and support the president’s duty to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Once President Obama announces a nominee, the Senate should allow a fair hearing to proceed, followed by a vote on the confirmation. We owe it to the founders of this great nation to uphold the Constitution both on the battlefield and in Washington.