There can be so many ambiguities when it comes to politics and government. Professional politicians, those who lead the nation, often employ individuals whose main purpose on staff is to write up speeches and statements for their boss to quote, sounding thoughtful or forceful or sad (depending upon the particular need) without actually saying anything.
It’s often the same with legislative writing — sometimes a law is drafted in such a manner that it takes years of litigation to figure out exactly how the law will be applied to everyday life.
However, there are a few laws written in such a manner as to leave no doubt as to the intent. One example is the U.S. Constitution and how it states Supreme Court justices are to be appointed.
“He[The President] shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Councils, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States…”
That’s pretty cut and dried. There’s no secondary clause that says “except when the president has less than a year on his term” or “except when the president has outspoken enemies in the Senate.”
No, the Constitution states the president shall appoint a nominee, with the advice and consent of the Senate. That little clause “advice and consent” is a bit ambiguous, and has been the basis for many arguments over the decades, but that’s not even at play yet in the debate surrounding the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and filling his seat on the court.
Within an hour of Scalia’s death, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell reduced the justice’s death to a political football, proclaiming that he did not believe the senate should hold hearings on any nominee put forth by the president.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
We have news for the Kentucky Republican: The American people do have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice, and they made that voice heard loud and clear when they elected President Obama to a second term in office.
Aside from the fact that it would be sheer lunacy to let the Supreme Court seat sit vacant for more than a year (how many 4-4 votes would mean, essentially, nothing had been decided in cases going before the court?), McConnell’s statement is a clear call to subvert the Constitution, to override that hallowed document. Seems every time President Obama does something those on the right disagree with, they scream that his actions are unconstitutional and he is a traitor, some going so far as to say he’s committed treason.
Wouldn’t those labels just as accurately describe McConnell’s actions and statements?
We are happy to report that North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is one of the few GOP voices of reason. Last week, Tillis cautioned his colleagues in the Senate against becoming obstructionist, instead urging them to consider whoever the president puts forth based on that person’s merits.
Unfortunately, the state’s other senator, Richard Burr, took to pandering to the right, agreeing with McConnell that the president should not appoint the next Justice, leaving the seat vacant until some time after the next president comes into office in 2017.
Tillis may carry the designation as the “junior” senator from North Carolina, having yet to serve two full years in office, but Burr and the more experienced members of the senate would be wise to yield to Tillis’ advice. Obama is the president, and one of the duties of his office is to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.
He should do so, and the senate should consider that nominee solely on his or her qualifications for the job.