Flags had not yet been ordered lowered to mourn the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before political operatives were at full speed.
Liberals are pressing President Barack Obama to nominate a candidate who will swing the high court’s majority; conservatives want to obstruct the president and not confirm his nominee in hopes Republicans win the White House this fall — and then they could nominate their own candidate.
We realize partisan takes on everything are exaggerated in a presidential election year. We also understand in the current red-blue divide that each side is looking for every advantage it can grab.
Here is what also is clear: The U.S. Constitution. Presidents nominate justices to the Supreme Court; the Senate provides the advice and consent.
For his part, Obama said he planned “to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t appear as inclined to fulfill his chamber’s duties, saying: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
McConnell, while clearly hoping for a GOP candidate to win the presidency, seems to have forgotten the people voted for the president under whose watch this vacancy occurred. Obama will remain president for the next 11 months.
With significant issues on the court’s docket such as immigration, abortion and unions, there is no reason to leave eight justices — four conservative and four liberal — to deadlock along for 11 months, plus however much longer it would take to select a nominee at that time and get them confirmed. Any 4-4 ties would leave in place the applicable appellate court ruling, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a supreme court.
And if Donald Trump would happen to win the presidency as a Republican, there’s still no guarantee McConnell would like Trump’s selection anyways.
Obama needs to go ahead and present his nominee. Presumably that nominee would be knowledgeable of the law and the Constitution — and likely would be left of center. That’s the president’s prerogative.
Should Republicans win the Oval Office this November, they’ll likely have chances to return the favor. On Nov. 8, according to a Tribune News Service report, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be 80 and Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78. Scalia was 79 when he died.
There is nothing positive that could result from attempts to gridlock a second branch of government. An ineffectual Congress is more than enough.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry