President Barack Obama fulfilled his duty of nominating a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Now the Senate has the constitutional duty to “advise and consent.” This doesn’t mean that the Senate is required to accept the White House’s nomination, but it should take it into consideration—meaning, hold hearings and vote on the nominee.
The Constitution doesn’t say that the Senate can choose to “let the American people decide” who the next justice will be, as an excuse not to fulfill its duty, for political reasons. Senators are hoping that a Republican wins the presidential election in November and can nominate a justice like the ultraconservative Scalia—therefore maintaining the court’s balance in favor of conservatives.
Republican lawmakers decided that, for them, Obama’s presidency is over—and demonstrated it with what they did with the White House’s budget. Now, by choosing not to consider a Supreme Court nominee, they’re deciding not to let the court function properly for at least nine months. This latter move will be a waste of time, because many of the cases that get heard will have to be repeated once the court is complete.
It is unusual that Congress—where both the institution and its constitutional powers have very low popularity—is the one preventing the executive and judicial branches from operating fully. It is outrageous that lawmakers with an extremely low approval rate among Americans because of their inability to do their jobs, are now taking over a job that isn’t theirs and representing those Americans.
The White House, far from nominating a liberal judge, selected Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, one of the country’s most important positions. Garland’s background is impeccable, and while his opinions are not like Scalia’s, he has conservative leanings—with some exceptions, like firearms.
If the situation were different, the Republican-majority Senate, which in the past only had good things to say about Garland, would have confirmed him quickly. If the situation were different, Obama would have probably appointed a more liberal nominee. However, direct opposition in Congress and the state of affairs in Washington required someone who is acceptable to everyone. The president did his part. Now the Senate must stop searching for excuses not to fulfill its obligations, and consider Garland’s nomination.