This article first appeared in Eagle Rising.
No sooner had we learned of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, than the politicians on both sides started talking about his successor. No wonder. Conservatives had been hoping fervently that President Obama would not get another Supreme Court pick, which would shift the balance of the Supreme Court if we lost one of our four solid conservatives. That is exactly what happened. Now the future of the Supreme Court, indeed, hangs in the balance. Elections have consequences, and that is being underlined at this time. Obama is president, and he has the right and the responsibility to name a successor.
However, elections to Congress also have consequences, and the Republicans currently control Congress. It is their responsibility to advise and consent.
Normally, I am one who believes in a straight up yes or no vote in Congress. We have seen so many ugly Supreme Court nominee battles in Congress, most notably, Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
In this case, the Republicans in Congress have options since they are in the majority. They don't have to confirm anybody until Obama leaves office. They don't have to hold hearings on Obama's nominee, and they don't have to bring it to a vote. It may not be fair, but that's the way the system is structured. The Democrats have used every tactic at their disposal when they were in charge, and it's time the Republicans learn to play some hardball.
The Dems are already yelling and screaming. They are calling on their supporters to lobby Congress to "do the right thing". But who are they to complain? When Obama was in the Senate, he participated in a filibuster against the nomination of Sam Alito. Both Senators Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy are blasting away at Mitch McConnell's statement that nothing will happen until a new president is in office. Schumer said this week in an interview that Obama's term was for four years not three (meaning he didn't lose his responsibility to name a Supreme Court justice in his final, lame duck year). Yet in 2007, 18 months before the administration of George W Bush would end, he said that no Bush nominees should be considered except in extraordinary circumstances. (Make that 2 and 1/2 years for Bush, Senator Schumer.)
Leahy also showed his hypocrisy when discussing the Thurmond Rule, which he supported in 2006 when the Dems controlled Congress and now opposes with the Republicans in charge..
Granted, one can find hypocrisy on both sides. The Republicans screamed at Democratic tactics when they (the Dems) were in charge, and the Democrats are screaming now. Congress is a veritable sausage-making factory, and it isn't pretty. However, if the rules permit, the Republicans must hold firm and not consider an Obama nominee. The stakes are simply too high. If they cave in (once again) on this one, they have no right to ask for our votes.