Have you heard the latest? Senate President Mitch McConnell says the 24 Republican Senators who are up for reelection this fall will not vote on anything from now until January 3, 2017, when those elected this November take office. Nor will they hold hearings on various appropriations, criminal justice reform, immigration, or any other legislation addressing issues facing our nation. That’s because it’s the last year of their six-year terms, and it’s a matter of principle that those who vote reflect the will of the people. Or so they say.
Those who won’t vote, again on principle, include senators like Kelly Ayotte of neighboring New Hampshire (is she bidding for Vice President?), Chuck Grassley, Rob Portman, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio especially should not vote for the rest of this year because he’s not running for reelection. You don’t believe me? Well, isn’t this the logical extension of the pig-headed position the Republicans are taking regarding what they will or won’t do with Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination? The reductio ad absurdum outcome, of course, is as illogical as the basis for the Senate leadership’s recalcitrance.
The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate says no damn way will it take up President Obama’s nomination of Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. It’s a matter of principle, they declare. It just isn’t right during the last year of a Presidency. It wouldn’t reflect the will of the people, or so we’re told.
But for Mitch McConnell, it isn’t really the will of the people that matters. As he told Fox News Sunday, he just can’t see the GOP approving a justice whom the National Rifle Association opposes. So the timing of the nomination is just a cover for something more pernicious. Since when does the NRA represent the will of the people?
And didn’t the people elect Barack Obama to serve a second four-year term, until January 20, 2017? Where does it say he’s just there for a three-year term and a one-year period of limbo? The last I knew, Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution said the President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.” The President has nominated Garland, and it’s now up to the Senate to advise and consent, that meaning, of course, meet with Garland, hold hearings and vote.
Garland is the kind of respected and learned middle-of-the-road judge whom former President George W. Bush might have appointed when faced with a Democratic Senate. That, according to a Bush’s White House ethics counsel Richard Painter. In other words, he should be acceptable to both parties, as, indeed, he was when confirmed 76 to 23 for his current position on the Appeals Court.
The Senators are all there to do their jobs for six-year terms. They should get on with it.
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