Immediately following news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing last month, Senate Republican leaders wasted no time in declaring their refusal to carry out their constitutional duty to consider a nominee from President Obama to fill the vacancy.
Republican leaders, including Senators Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Jeff Sessions, attempted to cloak their nakedly partisan and ideological obstructionism with logic-defying reasoning: That since President Obama has just a year left in office, and with the country in the midst of an election year, only a new President should be able to nominate the next Supreme Court justice.
Aside from the fact that President Obama was re-elected in 2012 to a full four-year term, and that he has the constitutional power under Article II to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, our research shows that these Republican leaders haven’t exactly been consistent with this line of logic.
In fact, Senators McConnell, Hatch, and Grassley themselves voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in an election year.
In the last year of President Ronald Reagan’s second term, the Democratic-controlled Senate – including current Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – unanimously confirmed Justice Anthony Kennedy with a 97-0 vote.
The fact is, every Supreme Court nominee since 1980 has been given a vote within 100 days:
We’re going to go ahead and call this what it is: An unprecedented, anti-democratic power grab that violates their duty to the nation and our Constitution.
If there’s no replacement for Justice Scalia until the inauguration of the next president, the highest court in the land is effectively hindered for two terms. In the likely event of a 4-4 tie, the lower court’s decision is upheld but is not considered binding precedent. That means that countless important cases – and lives – will remain in limbo if Senate Republicans succeed in their attempt to undermine the Constitution.
We don’t yet know who President Obama intends to nominate. At CREDO, we will be pushing for the president to pick a strong progressive who will take seriously the Court’s responsibility to the American people. But right now, the immediate need is to draw attention to Republicans’ radical refusal to act at all, in direct contradiction of our Constitution.
Tell Senate Republican leadership: You must hold fair hearings and a timely up or down vote for President Obama’s nominee for Justice Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court. Click here to sign the petition.