On March 16, President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States, honoring his constitutional responsibility to fill the vacancy left as a result of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing in February. Even before President Obama publicly announced the nomination, Senate Republicans united together to refuse consideration of any nominee until after the 2016 presidential election. Although about a quarter of the Senate GOP Caucus has since softened their tone and agreed to hold a courtesy meeting with Garland, any formal hearing or vote still remains unlikely.
Many Republicans argue that by waiting until after the election to act, they are allowing the American people to have a voice in the Supreme Court nomination process. But a presidential term is four years, not three. In 2012, 65 million Americans voiced their opinion by re-electing President Obama. And what about the countless constituents who elected these Republican Senators, entrusting them with the duty to fulfill a Senator’s Constitutional job responsibilities – which includes giving all Supreme Court nominees a fair hearing?
The Senate has confirmed Supreme Court nominees at least 17 times during presidential election years. Moreover, within just 48 hours after President Obama announced Garland’s nomination, 55 newspaper editorial boards across the country called on the Senate GOP Caucus to do their job and give Garland a hearing.
It’s no secret that our political institutions are broken. Senate Republicans’ outright refusal to fairly and dutifully consider this nomination, let alone even meet with the nominee, is emblematic of the dysfunction and partisan gridlock that has degraded voters’ faith in Congress and that continues to plague our political system.
And it’s this exact kind of partisanship and unwillingness to compromise that has given rise to the anti-establishment sentiment I spoke of last month and is resonating with so many Americans. In recent years, Congress has struggled to pass routine legislation, find areas of compromise on critical issues, and simply move the country forward.
It wasn’t long ago during the civil rights era that Congress and the President worked collaboratively to secure the rights of all people, while some state governments were struggling with the issues. Federal elected officials put the good of the country first in order to achieve necessary progress on big issues and guide the country out of one of its most turbulent eras.
Today, the tables have turned and signs of progress are now commonly found in the state houses. It’s time for the federal government and our elected officials to take a cue from state governments and rise above the politics so that the judicial branch is not another victim of partisan gridlock. The President has done his job. Now it’s time for Senate Republicans to do theirs.