Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Feb. 13, reportedly from natural causes, which has sent us into a bit of frenzied political turmoil.
Now, before I launch into what I have to say, I want to venture off a bit. While, as a Democrat, I tended to disagree with Scalia’s views, I still recognize his merit and his significant role as a Supreme Court justice. I’ve been noticing many people—most of whom have been liberals—rejoicing over his death, which is frankly despicable. He was a human being, with a family and friends who are mourning him. His death is no cause for celebration. And if you’re using the excuse of “I didn’t like him,” to justify it, you knew his opinions and views as he was required to express them for his career—you didn’t know the man himself. It’s no excuse.
With Scalia’s passing, we are left with eight justices, four of whom— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer—make up the liberal portion, while the other four—John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—occupy the conservative portion. If a new justice is not appointed quickly to replace Scalia, it means that upcoming cases, such as the ones concerning immigration, abortion, birth control and other issues that are frequently fought along party lines, could reach 4-4 decisions, more or less nullifying the decisions themselves. In these instances, the rulings of lower courts would stand and progress would not be made in any direction, according to Pete Williams, NBC News’ chief legal analyst.
Article II section 2 of the Constitution enlists the president with the responsibility to nominate a justice, and gives the Senate the responsibility to confirm him or her. For some reason, congressional Republicans and Republican presidential candidates alike are calling into question President Obama’s right to do this.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “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.”
In case he’s forgotten, Americans did have a say, when they elected Obama to office twice.
Current GOP presidential candidates have sounded similar sentiments. On Sunday’s episode of “This Week,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) remarked, “If the Democrats want to replace this nominee, they need to win this election.”
“The Senate’s duty is to advise and consent,” he continued. “You know what? The Senate is advising right now. We’re advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court.” Cruz also promised that he’d filibuster anyone Obama nominates—no exceptions.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) stated that he doesn’t trust Obama to nominate someone to the Supreme Court.
“There’s going to be a new president—I believe it’s going to be me—and we’re going to look for someone that most resembles Scalia to replace him.” Rubio stated on this week’s “Meet the Press.”
Jeb Bush acknowledged that Obama has the right to nominate someone, but that the Senate “has every right not to confirm that person.”
So, it seems we’ve reached a stalemate.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was also interviewed on “This Week,” and said that the “American people don’t like obstruction.” He also remarked, “I believe that many of the mainstream Republicans, when the president nominates a mainstream nominee, will not want to follow Mitch McConnell over the cliff.”
He continued, “When you go right off the bat and say, ‘I don’t care who he nominates, I’m going to oppose him,’ that’s not going to fly.”
I’m inclined to agree with Schumer—it’s absolutely heinous that the GOP is stalemating just for the sake of doing so.
Regardless, President Obama has 11 months left in office. He has the responsibility and an obligation to nominate a new justice to replace Scalia. That’s just a fact. And it should stand that the Senate should only choose not to confirm this person on the basis of rationale—a virtue I believe is completely lost on many senatorial Republicans at this point.