Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Supreme Irony: On The Empty Seat of Justice Scalia.

The US Supreme Court has an empty seat after the death of Justice Scalia.  Who is going to sit there?  How can that person be found?

The US Constitution tells us:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Bolds are mine.  Get it?  The president shall nominate and then the Senate will vote on that nomination.

But the Republicans have a different take on what should happen. 

It's fun and instructive to see what the six remaining Republican presidential candidates had to say about the nomination of Scalia's successor in the last primary debate.  Here are their opinions on whether president Obama should nominate someone for the bench!


I think he’s [Obama] going to do it whether or I’m O.K. with it or not. I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.


Here’s my concern about this. The country is so divided right now, and now we’re going to see another partisan fight take place. I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody.


Well, the current Constitution actually doesn’t address that particular situation,..


No. 2, I do not believe the president should appoint someone. And it’s not unprecedented. In fact, it has been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice.


Of course, the president, by the way, has every right to nominate Supreme Court justices. I’m an Article II guy in the Constitution. We’re running for the president of the United States. We want a strong executive for sure. But in return for that, there should be a consensus orientation on that nomination, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick when he submits that person to the Senate.

Well, we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year. And let me say, Justice Scalia...

Get it?  It would be in poor taste and probably against legal precedent for Obama to nominate anyone.  But should he make that horrible mistake, at least the Republicans can simply delay, delay and delay.  Indeed, it is their honorable duty to delay!  It doesn't matter that no single person has actually been named.  ANY candidate by a Democratic president is simply unacceptable.  Beforehand. 

As an aside, I had such fun watching that debate!  I watched it several times, in fact, because I needed the laughs (more about that in a later post).  But isn't it wonderful to learn that there's all sorts of reasons why this particular president shouldn't follow the rules of the Constitution?

It is not just the Republican presidential candidates who are of the opinion that it is acceptable to block the consideration of any nominee president Obama might send to the Senate for confirmation:

Senate Republicans on Monday began to close ranks behind a vow by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, to block consideration of any nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, for the remainder of President Obama’s term.
Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, who faces re-election this year, said in a statement that the Senate should follow what he called “common practice” to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term. Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, agreed, leaving nearly every vulnerable Republican incumbent backing Mr. McConnell’s pledge.

There ya go!  This is such a fascinating example of the yearned-for compromises in Washington, D.C., of getting things done in politics, of the willingness of Republicans to work with president Obama, and other related crap.

I cannot get over McConnell's statement:  Only Mr. or Ms. Nobody would be an acceptable candidate for the Republicans in the Senate.  Perversely, it is as if McConnell is doing the nomination here.

It's the Game of Thrones.