Until Wednesday, all the discussions surrounding whether the Senate would have a hearing for — let alone approve — President Barack Obama’s selection to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court were premature.
All the speculation, all the positioning, all the bluster, was mere fodder for politicians to gauge public sentiment. More than likely, they got what they were seeking.
Now that the president’s vetting process is complete and there is an actual nominee — Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — the time for rhetoric is over. Now it is time to get down to business as required by the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution, which sets a president’s term at four years, states the president “shall” nominate judges of the Supreme Court, “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” There is no “may” or “might” in the language. There is no “unless the president has fewer than 12 months remaining in office.” There is no ambiguity about either branch’s role in the process.
In short, the Senate’s role is a duty not a right. Refusing to uphold the Constitution is more than a dangerous precedent, it appears a flagrant violation.
Garland appears to be extremely qualified for the nation’s highest court. He has served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997 and, according to a Tribune News Service report, “would bring to the Supreme Court more judicial experience than any of the other current justices brought.”
He obtained his law degree from Harvard, is considered a centrist with strong leanings on law-and-order issues. Garland, who was with the Justice Department before becoming a judge, led the prosecutions of both the Unabomber and Oklahoma City bombing cases.
When being considered for the appellate court post, Garland amassed significant support from both sides of the aisle. In fact, the same TNS story reported: “Several longtime GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have publicly lobbied for Garland’s selection in the past.”
This should not be a political matter. The GOP-led Judiciary Committee should have a hearing, then vote on whether to approve the nominee.
And if politics must be considered, Republicans should consider the alternatives. Should Hillary Clinton succeed Obama in the Oval Office, the nominee likely would be considered more liberal than Garland. If Donald Trump wins, there’s no telling what sort of a candidate he’d tarnish the bench with.
Our advice and consent to the U.S. Senate would be simple: Uphold and protect the Constitution you swore you would.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry