Monday, February 15, 2016

Sen. Johnson, GOP take big risk in blocking Obama SCOTUS pick

GOP can block Obama Supreme Court pick -- but it’d be risky to do so

Republicans are trying to prevent President Barack Obama from picking a Supreme Court nominee to replace recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.

Commenting that we’re in a contentious presidential election year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Obama to back off on nominating someone, believing that duty should be left to the next president in office.

“The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Wisconsin’s own Republican senator, Ron Johnson, echoed McConnell’s comments.

“I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate,” he said.

There’s no law that requires waiting until the next president is picked before nominating someone to serve on a vacant spot on the Supreme Court. There’s an informal tradition set by the late Strom Thurmond that allows the Senate to delay a nomination in certain circumstances. But that “rule” (if you can even call it that) was originally adopted for a promotion for an already-sitting Supreme Court justice to become Chief Justice -- and it’s been improperly cited ever since.

Johnson’s statement is especially jarring -- the American people have already selected a president to fill vacant seats to the Supreme Court when they elected President Obama into office. The Constitution is quite clear on this: the president “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint...judges of the Supreme Court.” There are no time constraints or other requirements that limit when a president may nominate.

To suggest that the American people haven’t selected the current president to conduct his Constitutional duty is a slap in the face to the citizenry that voted him into office, and also demonstrates the disrespectful attitude that Johnson and other Republicans have for President Obama.

The Senate may choose to deny Obama’s appointment on whatever grounds they see fit, including the justifications above. But should they go forward in this manner, their actions will be decisively transparent, a political obstruction like none other that we’ve seen from Republicans during Obama’s time in office (and that’s saying something). It’s already transparent that the Republican Party is trying to stall for political reasons, given that Obama hasn’t even given any indication as to who he may nominate.

Choosing to go in this direction will be a risky gamble to make, especially in a year when 24 Republican senators, including Johnson, are up for reelection.

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