Despite its status as an independent branch of government, the American judiciary is not immune to partisan politics. That has become vividly apparent in the hours and days following Saturday’s death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday.
The United States Constitution codifies the politicization of the Supreme Court.
Article II Section 2 says the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court…” In other words, the president appoints, the Senate anoints.
At stake in replacing Scalia is the philosophical bent of the Supreme Court. Scalia was a steadfast conservative. His death leaves the nine member court divided between four conservatives and four liberals.
With a presidential election coming in November, conservative Republicans wasted no time in demanding that President Barack Obama refrain from nominating a replacement for Scalia, arguing that responsibility should be left for the next president after the American people have their say.
Obama has vowed to exercise his constitutional duty and nominate a candidate for the Supreme Court “in due time.” Fellow Democrats argue that the president has already won two elections and the people have already spoken about the direction of the country.
Few believe the senate will act on the president’s nomination, leaving the Supreme Court in the political gridlock gripping the other two branches of government.
The Senate Should Block an Obama Nomination to the Supreme Court
Rich Lowry – National Review
This is a chance for the Senate, in behalf of the prerogatives of Congress, to show some institutional self-respect. It owes President Obama no deference or consideration. He has trampled on the legislative power at every opportunity, including attempting to deem the Senate in recess on his own say-so (he lost the resulting Supreme Court case 9–0).
If President Obama wanted a collegial relationship with the Republican Senate, he should have thought of that long ago, and if didn’t want to lose the Senate, he should have moderated his stances.
Reid to GOP: For the Good of the Country, Stop Your Nakedly Partisan Obstruction
Harry Reid – The Washington Post
Having gridlocked the Senate for years, Republicans now want to gridlock the Supreme Court with a campaign of partisan sabotage aimed at denying the president’s constitutional duty to pick nominees.
The good news is that there is still time for heated rhetoric to yield to reasoned action. The Senate can get there if Republicans take a deep breath, put partisan politics aside and think this through, as Americans first and foremost. It is easy to get caught up in the partisan swirl of an election year, but I would urge my Republican colleagues to remember that the consequences of blocking any nominee, regardless of merits, would hang over their heads for the rest of their careers.
GOP Has a Duty to Reject Obama’s SCOTUS Pick
David Harsanyi – The Federalist
Although nothing in his political history suggests magnanimity, Barack Obama may surprise us by nominating one of those moderate-consensus types who would provide some of that national healing he promised us eight years ago. But he’s certainly under no constitutional obligation to do so. He can nominate whomever he pleases in the wake of the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia. And Republicans have plenty of precedent for rejecting his choice.
They, just like Sen. Obama, can hold nominees responsible for their philosophical positions and records. Sen. Obama unconditionally rejected every George W. Bush nomination to the SCOTUS out of hand because of their ideology.
Why the GOP Fears Obama Filling Scalia’s SCOTUS Seat
Mike Littwin – The Colorado Independent
[A]lthough I don’t have any polling on this, I don’t think I’ll get much argument by saying that the state of the courts matters more to typical Republicans than to typical Democrats, even when Republicans have majorities. Just look at how the very conservative Chief Justice John Roberts has been vilified by the right for his two votes on Obamacare.
Republicans have already announced that this is all about politics. We’re supposed to believe, as Roberts recently said, that the courts are above all that. And if no one actually believes that any more, we’re still supposed to aspire to it.
Grassley’s Supreme Court Stance Is All About Politics
Editorial Board – The Des Moines Register
…Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee…argues that “it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice.”
That almost sounds reasonable until you consider the fact that “the American people” elected the current president, twice, and that they did so with the expectation that he would fulfill his constitutional duties as long as he remained in office.
Obama Wants to Reduce Meanness? Justice Scalia’s Death Gives Him that Chance
Jonah Goldberg – Los Angeles Times
Obama could prevent all this strife. He could say that he will leave this appointment up to his successor. Or he could appoint a conservative during the Senate recess (Sen. Ted Cruz, anyone?) who would serve only until the end of the following session. That would preserve the power balance on the court for the time being.
Such diplomacy would go a long way to reduce — or at least prevent — further polarization and meanness in our politics.
Chances Obama will go this route? Zero.