I had not yet heard of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing when I turned on the Republican Party debate last weekend.
The first question was whether or not President Barack Obama should name the next Supreme Court justice. Candidates, one after another, said that he should not — that the next president should choose. Granted, what else could they say? However, most genuinely seemed to have convinced themselves that the next president should make that call.
And it wasn’t just the presidential candidates. Mitch McConnell said that it should be the American people who choose who the next justice is, referring of course to the next presidential election.
Certainly Supreme Court appointments are important, as they rule on this country’s most divisive issues. The Supreme Court interprets the law on federal questions, but not without a political perspective. It’s clear which justices are conservative and which are liberal.
They are, unfortunately, lifetime appointments. This causes some problems as presidents often choose young judges so that they can influence the social and political direction of the country long after their terms end. The other problem is that this can put the pressure on justices to serve well past retirement. In the present case, Scalia would not have retired while Obama was in office because of the fear of a liberal appointment.
While brilliant in his understanding of the law, Scalia’s conservativism and original intent was of some angst for liberals. Some of his opinions and perspectives were not only outdated but blatantly offensive. I not will provide detail so soon after his death, but simple research will easily provide numerous examples. One may want to start with Lawrence v. Texas. Comedian Patton Oswald said, “Scalia was born in 1936… and never left.”
In response to Mitch McConnell’s shortsighted statement, Senator Elizabeth Warren stated that the American people did decide who would name the next Supreme Court justice when they elected Obama by more than five million votes.
She’s absolutely correct and it’s ridiculous that the Republicans are going to try to run out the clock with almost a full year left in his presidency. The next president doesn’t get sworn in until next January — are they seriously considering that the Supreme Court wait until at least a year from now before someone else is selected? Obama has just less than 25 percent of his term remaining. While the Constitution details no timetable for lame duck presidents, it surely would not have been a year. I might consider the argument if the amount of time left were a few days, but even then, that suggests a cut-off date and the Constitution does not provide one. Scalia would be appalled at the Republicans’ rationale.
It is often said that fairness could be realized by considering what might happen were the situation the other way around. Does anyone think that Republicans would not have supported a Republican president naming the next justice were the situation reversed? Of course not. How about Democrats? Maybe they would fight it as Republicans intend to, but I would remain consistent. I would just as quickly call them defiant bullies trying to make up their own rules.
Because justices receive lifetime appointments and considering the political implications I mentioned above, there have not been many Supreme Court justices nominated in the final year of their presidency. But consider the last time it happened.
In 1987, Anthony M. Kennedy was confirmed by a Democratic Senate 97-0. He was nominated by Ronald Raegan on Nov. 30.
Ouch, so much for precedent.
American did overwhelming elect Obama and he should nominate the next Supreme Court justice. And Republicans need to act responsibly and perform the constitutional duty of approving a qualified individual.
I would say that they are acting like spoiled children, but if you have seen the debates, you already know that.
Rob Swindell is a lifelong Lorain County resident offering his opinions on politics, science, and social issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.