Stalling SCOTUS Nomination Should Backfire On GOP


You have to admit, Republicans do outrage pretty well.

Under the dubious leadership of Republican Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republicans have vowed to block President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, the indisputably moderate and qualified Merrick Garland. They won't allow a vote on a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia until a new president assumes office in 2017.

In an interview with Fox News, Obama stated the obvious, that Democrats could decide to go tit for tat and block a potential Republican nominee for an entire presidential term.

When White House press secretary Josh Earnest repeated the observation during an April 14 press briefing, Republicans didn't hesitate to declare out how outraged -- outraged! -- they are at the suggestion.

"What's to stop Democrats who are in charge of the Senate when a Republican is in office, from saying, 'Well, we're just going to wait the four years to fill the vacancy?'" Earnest told a reporter, according to ABC news. "There is no material difference in that argument. That would represent a breakdown of the process."

The president and his spokesman are right.

But that didn't stop McConnell and his cronies from feigning shock at the suggestion. To them, obstructing a Supreme Court appointment -- when several monumental cases are in the queue -- for almost a year is perfectly fine, but blocking an appointment for four years means an arbitrary line is being crossed.

No one who heard Obama or Earnest weigh in can honestly believe they're advocating a four-year obstruction. Both have repeatedly said they want to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. They're simply pointing out that if both parties block judicial nominees indefinitely, the system will break down.

Although nominating Garland was a shrewd political move, and you could argue that Obama knew Republicans would reject Garland -- making them look like the bad guys in an election year for opposing a widely acceptable moderate -- it was also an olive branch.

Obama could have nominated the most far-left, hyperpartisan potential jurist in the American legal system. He didn't, even when interest groups pressured him to stack the high court with liberal justices.

Instead, the president went with a solid pick, a constitutionalist judge who was often praised by Republicans before he became the rope in a game of political tug-of-war. McConnell and the other Senate Republicans must know Garland is a more acceptable choice than a potential Supreme Court justice nominated by a potential Democrat president, either Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Yet McConnell refuses to budge. He won't meet with Garland. He won't negotiate. To hear him tell it, Supreme Court justices are elected via voter referendum.

“Most of my members are comfortable with letting the American People make this decision [by] electing the next president who will fill this vacancy next year,” McConnell told ABC News.

But voters don't pick Supreme Court justices, and the system was set up to avoid a direct vote, to insulate the high court from the partisanship and changing moods of the electorate. McConnell knows that, but he pushes on anyway.

He has the support of conservative talkers and bloggers, who point to previous Democratic obstructionism in a strange attempt to justify the current Supreme Court blockade, as if U.S. politicians operate by third-grade playground rules, and one immature turn deserves another.

So, articles like one on The Federalist, titled "10 Times Democrats Vowed To Block Republican Court Nominees," as if denying judicial appointments to the nation's most important court is tantamount to withholding a video game controller from a sibling out of spite.

When American voters see Republicans obstructing nominees out of spite, they're not going to run down a mental checklist of times Democrats tried to block nominees more than a decade ago. They're going to see McConnell, an out-of-touch politician going on TV to justify his childish behavior, and they're going to loathe him. That's if they already don't.

So no, Obama and Earnest weren't threatening Republicans with four years of obstructionism. Neither of them will be around in any official capacity to make that happen, even if they had the political sway. They're simply pointing out that by sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending there is no nominee, the Republicans are playing a dangerous game that hurts the legal system and hurts the American people.

If McConnell wants to act like a child, he should be marched to the corner of the Senate chambers for a time out, with his favorite toys taken away from him. If Republicans don't want a petulant child as their poster boy, they should demand that McConnell act like an adult, or find someone who will.

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Sources: ABC News (2) (3), The FederalistU.S. Senate / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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