Friday, April 01, 2016
Billy Long; Americans should have a say in Supreme Court selection
After the death of former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia this February, America is faced with one of the most critical decisions its government and people can make: choosing a new justice to serve in the highest court in the land.
As candidate for President Obama’s third appointee to the Supreme Court throughout his tenure, the president chose the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland. Shortly thereafter, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for an end to Judge Garland’s nomination process. Now, a resounding number of Congressmen in both the House of Representatives and Senate have asked that we wait to fill this vacancy.
I agree, and believe that nominating or confirming a new Judge to the Supreme Court during a presidential election season is highly irresponsible and neglects the voice of the American people. Voters should have a say in whether or not Garland is fit for the Supreme Court. While it is rare for a Supreme Court vacancy to come open for a late-term and “lame-duck” president, this is a prime opportunity for Americans citizens’ voices to be heard.
As you may have already seen, calls to delay this nomination process have drawn criticism; many Democrats have called the stalling of this nomination a political stunt – even drawing comparisons to President Reagan’s November 11, 1987 nomination of Justice Anthony Kennedy with a year left until the next president was chosen.
Most importantly, I still believe the will of the people should be heard in this process regardless of whether it’s 1987 or 2016. But, it is also unfair to categorize Reagan’s nomination of Kennedy as rushed, given that he had previously nominated two justices to fill the vacancy created by Justice Lewis F. Powell’s retirement on June 27, 1987. Robert Bork’s planned nomination was announced by Reagan four days after that date, which was voted down by the Senate. Douglas Ginsberg, Reagan’s second choice, withdrew from the nomination process due to public controversy.
Kennedy’s nomination was the culmination of a long and deliberative process, unlike what the current situation would turn out to be. At the heart of President Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Garland is our constitutional system of checks and balances. Yes, the president has every right to make a nomination for a Supreme Court vacancy, but the Senate has no mandated duty to immediately confirm that nominee. Even Vice-President Biden opposed confirmation of Supreme Court replacements during election years when he was in the Senate. At the time, he said that confirmation hearings should not be seriously considered "until after the political campaign season is over."
America’s next Supreme Court Associate Justice will be presiding over critical judgements of constitutional power like the Environmental Protection Agency’s free-ranging mandates, the Obama Administration’s dangerous immigration policies, and unforeseeable cases for decades to come.
The American people need to know that any nominee will uphold America’s constitutional principles, and deserve to know that their Senate will only confirm a nominee through a politically untainted process. Whether Chief Judge Merrick Garland is right for that role may yet be debated after the election, but his nomination at this time raises too many questions about his future to leave it up to a hurried process. After November, Washington will have heard the input of the American people and will be able to more faithfully confirm our Supreme Court’s next appointee at that time.