Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has slammed his Republican colleagues. GOP lawmakers have vowed to block any U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Justice Antonin Scalia, considered the staunchest conservative on the Supreme Court, passed away on Feb. 13. Within two hours of the news, Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, released a statement that, “... this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Senate Republicans have invoked the “Thurmond Rule,” an unofficial agreement in Congress that a President should not nominate lifetime appointments within the last six months of their term.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio called the precedent “common practice,” according to The New York Times.
Reid has penned an op-ed in The Washington Post to criticize McConnell and his colleagues’ vow to deny President Obama the right to selecting a nominee.
“We are entering uncharted waters in the history of the U.S. system of checks and balances… Republicans now want to gridlock the Supreme Court with a campaign of partisan sabotage aimed at denying the president’s constitutional duty to pick nominees,” Reid wrote.
One person who agreed with Reid was Sen. McConnell in 2007, when he argued that Congress should confirm then-President George W. Bush’s appointee to the court even though it was as late as June, The Daily Beast reports.
“Republicans should not insult the American people’s intelligence by pretending there is historical precedent for what they are about to do,” Reid wrote. “There is not.”
The Thurmond Rule originated in 1968, when late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina lead the charge against U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s attempt to upgrade Justice Abe Fortas, who had strong ties to the Lyndon administration, to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
That incident was not about filling a vacancy, and President Obama has roughly 11 months left in office. The current situation does not fit the mold of the the Thurmond Rule.
Reid warned Senate Republicans that fighting President Obama on making the Supreme Court whole as soon as possible would be remembered in history.
It is easy to get caught up in the partisan swirl of an election year, but I would urge my Republican colleagues to remember that the consequences of blocking any nominee, regardless of merits, would hang over their heads for the rest of their careers,” Reid wrote.
Former Obama advisor David Axelrod predicted that GOP lawmakers will not be swayed from blocking Obama’s nominee, even if there is public pressure to compromise.
“I don’t think they are going to move,” Axelrod told The New York Times. “Any Republican who breaks rank on this will face the full fury of the base.”