President Obama has vowed to nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Antonin Scalia. And of course that’s his right as President of the United States.
The Senate has the right to confirm or reject that nominee. And they have no constitutional obligation to fill that seat at all in 2016. They could wait until next year, when a new president is in office. Long vacancies have happened before.
Would Republicans pay a price for obstruction? Perhaps. But I doubt it. I think the Republican Senate would pay a bigger price for confirming a guaranteed fifth vote to bring back gruesome partial-birth abortions.
But when President Barack Obama announces his nominee, I think a Republican Senator should make the following remarks:
“… There are some who believe that the president, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether or not the justice is intellectually capable, and an all-around good guy. That once you get beyond intellect, and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed.
“I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise AND consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of [ … ], I am deeply troubled.
“I have no doubt that [ … ] has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. As has been already stated, he has received the highest rating from the ABA, he is an intelligent man, and an accomplished jurist. There’s no indication that he is not a man of fine character. But when you look at his record….”
If you haven’t guessed already, these are the very words used by Barack Obama on the Senate floor in 2005 when President George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. (Obviously he said “Samuel Alito and “Judge Alito” where I placed the brackets.)
So let’s dispense with this notion that the Senate is somehow obligated to confirm someone just because the President nominated someone. Especially a nominee coming from the only President to ever filibuster a Supreme Court nomination.
Leave that seat empty for a year. The world will keep spinning.