For many of us who support the idea of a constitutionally limited government, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a great loss. Now, that’s not to say he was perfect by any stretch, after all, none of us are and I disagreed with a few of his rulings, but generally his opinions were quite good. Now that he is no longer with us, the president has the duty to appoint a replacement.
However, some congressional Republicans have announced that they will not consider any appointment by President Barack Obama. For example, here is a quote shared by one staffer for my representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6). “The voice of the American people should be heard over the opinion of a progressive, lame-duck President. I continue to oppose the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice under President Obama.”
Now, I’ll be one of the first to admit that I’ve disagreed with a lot of the opinions of President Obama’s previous two picks, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In all cases the Supreme Court ought to determine the constitutionality of a law based upon what the Constitution actually says rather than what the Supreme Court would prefer the Constitution to say. The Supreme Court is not and should not be in the business of making new laws for the nation. That was never the intent of the body and no justice should be allowed to do so, regardless of ideology.
Yes, chances are good that President Obama will nominate another candidate who will legislate from the bench and thus ought not be confirmed by the Senate. Nevertheless, when Republican leaders, like Bob Goodlatte, make blanket statements opposing any and all nominees that this president will offer, irrespective of who they are and what they stand for, it conveys a dangerous message of blind partisanship. Yes, President Obama is a “lame-duck president”, but so too were George W. Bush from 2004-2009, Bill Clinton from 1996-2001, and Ronald Reagan from 1984-1989. Does being a lame-duck mean that a president no longer has constitutional duties? Weren’t each elected to hold the powers and office of the president by “the voice of the American people”? Didn’t each win a majority of the votes in the Electoral College as prescribed by our Constitution? Are these powers surrendered once a president can no longer seek re-election? If so, please point to the article and section in the Constitution where it says as much.
If Mitt Romney had won the presidency in 2012 or if John McCain had been re-elected that year would the congressional Republicans adamantly refuse to consider a Supreme Court nominee of either of these two men? Or would they happily consider these nominees simply because they happen to be of the same political party?
Now that’s not to say that some Democrats wouldn’t do the exact same thing if they found themselves in this position. In all honesty, if the roles were reversed and the Democrats controlled Congress and a Republican were in the White House, they would likely use the exact same language and tactics to thwart this hypothetical nominee too. Although we all know it won’t happen, what would Representative Goodlatte say if President Obama nominated Goodlatte as a Supreme Court justice? If he chose any path other than demanding an outright rejection from the Senate, he would prove himself to be nothing more than a hypocrite.
Unfortunately, this increasingly blind partisanship is destroying our nation. Unlike some people, I don’t want to see President Obama or the Congress succeed or fail simply as a ploy to aid or hinder one political party’s election chances. Looking at it objectively, it doesn’t matter which party controls a specific branch of the government. What does matter is will they follow the rule of law and the Constitution or not? Will they work to expand our debt or shrink it? Do they advocate liberty or statism? Will they return the power of the bloated federal government to the states, localities, and people or will they continue to concentrate influence inside the beltway?
Let President Obama make his Supreme Court pick and then the Senate should do its job in judging that candidate based upon his or her ideas, merits, and fidelity to the Constitution. Any politician who has even the slightest desire of following the Constitution should reject the idea of a blanket refusal or acceptance swayed solely by one’s feelings about our president and his political party. To do otherwise is a dangerous game and an abandonment of the duties of his or her office.