2016 is almost certain to be a year that political scientists and historians will study for decades to come. In a presidential election season where one party’s front runner has made forcing Mexico to build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out a core component of his campaign while a competitive candidate in another party is advocating for free healthcare/education it is clear that deep political fault lines have formed. The death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia may be what causes an actual political earthquake.
On Tuesday Senate Republicans convened and decided that they will not even hold confirmation hearings for anyone President Obama nominates. This could lead to a record length of time that the country has been short a Supreme Court Justice. Even if the Senate confirms a nominee the day a new president is sworn in (and let’s be honest, there is a flat chance of that happening) then we would still have gone 341 days with a fractured judicial branch.
It is ironic to see so many Senators who have made a career out of trumpeting the virtues of the constitution go to such lengths to subvert it. The beauty of our country is that it was designed with checks and balances; but these institutions need to be fully staffed in order to fulfill the promises made to us by our founding documents.
Would you be comfortable with Congress operating with 59 less members (1/9th of what we are supposed to have) or the country being without a president for a year?
What makes this infuriating to watch it that these confirmation battles are so transparently partisan. Today it is the Republicans that are openly vowing to obstruct the confirmation process but that is because they control the senate under a Democratic president. The Democrats would play the same game and Republicans would push for hearings if the tables were reversed.
Don’t think so? Today Sen. Schumer, who is widely expected to become next Democratic leader in the Senate, is arguing that any presidential nominees receive consideration. Meanwhile there is a group called Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) that is running ads in battleground states to encourage Republican Senators to refuse to confirm any judicial nominee. But, flashback a few years to the Bush administration and the all of a sudden everyone has a different philosophy on the judicial confirmation process. During President Bush’s tenure Sen. Schumer did everything in his power to prevent up-or-down votes for nominees and the JCN (which in the early 2000’s went by the name “Judicial Confirmation Network” - can’t make this stuff up) actively worked to ensure the confirmation of presidential nominees.
I am far from the only one that thinks all of this is nonsense. Last week The Centrist Project included a survey in the weekly newsletter we send out (click here to sign up for future newsletters and surveys) and 93% of our members that responded said they think that President Obama should nominate and the Senate should consider. Also, 97% said they do not believe the Republican Senate would behave the same way if there was a Republican President and 76% agree that a group of independent Senators could change this tribal approach to the judiciary.
This type of political battle is emblematic of what The Centrist Project is dedicated to stopping: A purely partisan bloodsport that prevents our government from functioning which in turn impedes American prosperity. Or as Scalia would call it: “jiggery-pokery”