Since Justice Antonin Scalia died last week the Congress has been in a tissy about Obama’s ability to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. The Washington establishment is so dysfunctional that the republicans are publicly suggesting they hijack the whole process, established by the Constitution, taking a seat of the high court hostage. yikes.
The New York Times editorial board published this piece in response to the unprecedented (there have been rumors that the Veep suggested a similar tactic, which has since been shown to be taken out of context), call from the GOP not to consider any nominees.
These statements are so twisted that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s take them one by one.
First, Mr. Obama is not a “lame-duck president.” The lame-duck period is broadly understood to run from after the November election until a new president is inaugurated in January. November is more than eight months off. Based on the average number of days it has taken the Senate to act on previous Supreme Court nominees, the seat could be filled by this spring.
Second, no matter how often Republicans repeat the phrase “let the people decide,” that’s not how the system works. The Constitution vests the power to make nominations to the court in the president, not “the people.” In any case, the people have already decided who should make this appointment: They elected Mr. Obama twice, by large margins.
Third, it is preposterous to accuse Mr. Obama of causing a “bitter struggle” by nominating someone who will not be confirmed. The only reason a nominee would not be confirmed is that the Senate has pre-emptively decided to block any nominee sight unseen. Mr. Obama is once again the only adult in the room, carrying out his constitutional obligation while Senate Republicans scramble to dig up examples of Democrats trying to block nominees. But those examples show only that Democratic senators have pushed hard for Republican presidents to pick ideologically moderate nominees. Until now, neither party has ever vowed to shut down the nomination process entirely, even before it has begun.
Only two Republican senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine, were brave enough to say that they would vote on President Obama’s nominee. This is what passes for moderation in today’s G.O.P.: simply stating a willingness to do the job you were elected to do.
Unfortunately, for too many Republicans moderation now equals apostasy. These Republicans have stubbornly parked themselves so far to the right for so many years that it is hard to tell whether they can hear how deranged they sound.
The truth is they are afraid — and they should be. They know Mr. Obama has a large pool of extremely smart and thoroughly mainstream candidates from which to choose a nominee. They know that if the American people were allowed to hear such a person answer questions in a Senate hearing, they would wonder what all the fuss was about.
So Mr. McConnell and his colleagues plan to shut their doors, plug their ears and hope the public doesn’t notice. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to rationalize this behavior. Don’t be fooled. It is panic masquerading as strength.