Usually, an open seat next to you means extra elbow room—and with that can come an increased chance for your voice to be acknowledged. The vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court bench is a different story.
With the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court faces its first vacancy on the bench since Abraham Lincoln’s re-election in 1864. An 8-person Court is not only unrealistic, but also unconstitutional. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states the President shall nominate, and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint a Supreme Court justice.
President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland on Mar. 16. At the time of publication, the Senate has sat on this nomination for 210 days. This makes Garland the longest-pending Supreme Court nominee in history, surpassing Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1916 previous record of 125 days during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. Conservative Republicans in the Senate opposed the nomination by Wilson, a democrat, of fellow democrat Brandeis.
Proceeding without the full nine justices risks a tie vote that upholds prior ruling and sets no precedent. A case resulting in a tie vote is essentially the same as if the justices never heard the case. Although justices can choose to reargue cases that end in tie votes, citizens do not benefit from prolonged deliberation. Full and complete justice requires a complete nine-member Supreme Court.
Garland is a more-than-qualified Supreme Court Justice nominee, having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and served as chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Garland served 19 years on the D.C. Circuit Court, having “more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history,” according to CNN. Garland prosecuted the case against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
This is not the first time a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurred during a presidential election year. Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in the last year of Ronald Reagan’s second term. The Senate has agreed to hearings under these circumstances before and has no valid reason for refusing to do so now. Refusing to confirm an incumbent president’s Supreme Court nomination, simply because he is a democrat, is not an excuse.
To delay selecting a Supreme Court justice is both misguided and fundamentally wrong. It is incorrect to say the American people, specifically Republicans, are not part of this choice. By electing President Obama, the country has spoken and spoken clearly. Voters must deal with the results.
With many issues pending before the Supreme Court this year, such as immigration reform, religious exceptions to contraception coverage in Obamacare, educators’ refusal to pay union dues, Texas regulations restricting abortion clinics, and patent infringement, the Court needs its ninth justice to avoid potential 4-4 splits.
To avoid selecting a justice is not only unconstitutional, but also a great disservice to American voters. The Senate’s refusal to consider nominees sets an irresponsible precedent for future Courts.
Senators, do your job.