I don’t believe the reflexive political decision by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (see tweet below the fold) was primarily because the President is African American. I do believe racial politics allow McConnell and Republican Senators to imagine preventing a Democrat from appointing a Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Scalia.
The primary reason for an unprecedented level of coordinated obstructionism on one of the most important duties of a president is the high stakes involved in the appointment of the next justice.
As a Democrat, if the roles were reversed I know I too would be desperate that those sharing my political views would do everything they . could .. to …..
But to what? Delay? Demand a justice appointment closer to my views?
We have to learn to accept that partisanship (see below for definition) is extant, ubiquitous and all things considered, not a bad thing. Partisanship is of course a part of being a Supreme Court Justice as in the end they are human too. We all have our biases and beliefs.
Having said that, we are also a nation of laws, and this too is a good thing. So here are a couple of suggestions to President Obama and Democratic leaders.
a) President Obama – Nominate a Justice as is your responsibility and right. Democrats and right minded Republicans – do everything you can to insure those who voted for President Obama in 2012 are represented as they should be. Presidents are elected for full terms, not some fraction of terms.
b) As there is strong consensus on the Republican side that there should be a ban on nominations being passed in election years, let’s make this law. Pass a bill that delineates the last day a sitting President can nominate any Federal Judge and receive advice and consent. Let’s set the rules and then let’s follow them. We can’t make them up as we go along.
The current declared and unconstitutional obstructionism, if anything more than a political ploy to encourage President Obama to nominate a more acceptable Justice, is one in a long line in the Republican war against governing. Under this current political practice they really don’t lose (1) because in the end, one of their goals is to reduce the efficacy of government and one way to do that is to insure that governing only occurs when people who share their views are in charge.
The timing of Justice Scalia’s death does beg the question, when is the last date a President can nominate a Justice and be guaranteed his or her choice can be appointed timely? If Republicans are determined to continue this charade, let’s make sure the first African-American President will not be the only president that only gets 3/5’s of his term. Let’s make them put in writing that they believe what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
(1) I mean until they have to try to win elections in blue states or for President of the United States where it seems the electorate has figured this out.
Senator McConnell’s tweet the day of Justice Scalia’s death:
From the NYT today: G.O.P. Senators Say Obama Court Pick Will Be Shunned
From the NYT February 13th: How Long Does It Take to Confirm a Supreme Court Nominee?
The U.S. Constitution:
From Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.