by Betsy McCaughey | February 17, 2016 12:05 am
Democrats are giddy over the prospect of President Obama replacing conservative Justice Antonin Scalia with a liberal.
But Republicans are equally adamant about blocking Obama’s lame-duck appointment. “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
It’s rare that a president makes a Supreme Court appointment during his last months in office. But timing’s not the critical issue. The real outrage is the Democrats’ baseless claim that Obama’s promised nominee should get an E-ZPass onto the bench.
Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz urges that Senate confirmation move quickly, “as our founders intended,” and not be “twisted by politics.”
Hillary Clinton says any obstruction would “dishonor our Constitution.” Sorry Hillary and Debbie, that’s not what the Constitution says.
Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders also insists it would be wrong to delay Obama’s court pick for “overtly political reasons.”
All these politicians need a history lesson. Claiming the Senate’s duty is to rubber stamp any “qualified” nominee is pure fiction.
Even George Washington had to endure the Senate rejecting one of his Supreme Court nominees — John Rutledge — in 1795 because of Rutledge’s controversial opposition to a treaty with Great Britain. Overtly political.
Fifteen years later, the Senate nixed President James Madison’s nominee Alexander Wolcott for his zealous enforcement of unpopular trade restrictions. Clearly political.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s nominee –Ebenezer Hoar — was rejected by the Senate in 1869 for supporting civil service reform. Again, political.
And those are just a few examples.
More recently, the vicious tactics Senate Democrats used to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Robert Bork, in 1987 gave rise to a new verb — “borking.” Bork, a Yale law school professor, was eminently qualified. But like Scalia, he interpreted the Constitution according to the founders’ original intent. Democrats saw that allowing Bork to replace the retiring moderate Justice Lewis F. Powell would tip the Court rightward.
Then-Senator Joe Biden argued Democrats had a duty to probe Bork’s views — not just his qualifications — because of Reagan’s “determined attempt to bend the Supreme Court to his political ends.”
Biden and Patrick Leahy, top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, grilled Bork relentlessly and after the abusive spectacle, the Senate’s Democratic majority rejected him.
In 2007, New York Senator Chuck Schumer called on his Democratic colleagues to vote against any nominees proposed by George W. Bush, because Schumer feared the court was moving to the right. He said, “We should reverse the presumption of confirmation.”
Fast forward to 2016, and Schumer, Biden and Leahy have had a change of heart. They say Obama’s nominee should be speedily confirmed without regard to politics. In Leahy’s words, the Supreme Court is “too important to our democracy to be understaffed for partisan reasons.” Hypocritical nonsense.
The danger is that some GOP Senators actually buy that baloney. When Obama nominated radical judicial activists Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, Lindsey Graham, R. S.C., voted for them, saying the Senate should defer to the president on Court nominees.
On Sunday, Graham pledged that “if Hillary Clinton wins the White House and she puts a liberal who’s well-qualified, I’ll vote for them.”
As if Senatorial courtesy trumps the survival of freedom.
The court, currently divided 4-4, is on the brink of an activist majority. An activist court will — for starters — perpetuate racial preferences, uphold amnesty for illegals, and concoct new “rights” as fast as they eviscerate conscience rights and the rest of our written Constitution.
If Obama replaces Scalia, it will be his third appointment to the court. What’s to stop Justices Ginsburg or Breyer from retiring this fall, making way for a fourth or even fifth Obama appointment? That could reshape the Court for 40 years.
That’s why McConnell has no choice but to hold the line until 2017, hoping for a conservative president. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of “Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution.”
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