New Castle, PA, April 19, 2016 –Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland under mounting political pressure during a tough reelection year, yet declined to even consider the nominee when he decided to stand with his fellow Republicans for what appear to be political reasons.
Toomey said he opposed the nomination for two reasons.
First, Garland’s decision to rule in favor of the EPA 90% of the time, including a case where the EPA wanted to implement regulations that would impose $2,400 for every $1 of benefit, gave the Senator pause.
Although the cost burdens of EPA regulations clearly need to be addressed, Judges are supposed to rule on the legality of issues, not the economics. Even if it costs $2,400 for every $1 of healthcare savings to safeguard the public from nuclear waste, for example, that is the responsibility of the EPA and the courts must side with the EPA for that reason.
The role of political leader like Senator Toomey is, however, to address the cost concern by proactively helping the EPA find more efficient ways to properly regulate, which is what he should be doing instead of impeding the nomination process.
Second, Pat Toomey feels the 2016 Presidential Election is too close.
Had Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died following the 2016 Presidential Election, Merrick Garland would be the nomination of a lame-duck President Obama. Consequently, it would probably be inappropriate, though legal and Constitutional, for President Obama to offer a nomination and have that nomination confirmed to a lifelong post.
Had Justice Scalia died near the end of the Supreme Court’s summer break, people might have concerns that there would not be enough time to hold proper confrontation hearings before the November Elections.
As Justice Scalia died in the middle of a Supreme Court term and the nomination process is able to deliver a necessary appointee for the start of the next term, the impact of campaign politics on the nomination process and the impact of the nomination process on the outcome of the Presidential election is not an imminent enough threat to warrant the derailment of the nomination process.
After all, the 2016 Presidential Campaign has not even technically begun. The 2016 Presidential Primaries have yet to deliver the Republican and Democratic nominees.
Even though it is an election year, the Country still needs to be run. Life might stop for politicians hitting the campaign trail, but it goes on for everyone else and the government must stay open for business.
It is the responsibility of President Obama to offer a nominee, which he has done, and it is the responsibility of Congress to give that nominee a fair hearing.
Given President Obama’s nomination is considered a compromise nominee, the nomination of Judge Garland is not an example of a lame-duck President trying to politically manipulate the balance of power in the Supreme Court .
The refusal of Republicans to even hold nomination hearings for Judge Garland over the vote in November is, therefore, simply an extension of the Republican obstructionism that has turned the US Federal government into a dysfunctional mess.
By the logic of Republican leadership, the President becomes a lame-duck as soon as the Presidential election cycle begins. As the 2016 Election cycle started in early 2015 and the season keeps getting longer, the only time a nominee could be appointed to the Supreme Court is before the mid-term election, if then.
That said, Supreme Court appointments have been politicized and they have become ideological in nature thanks to political efforts to bias and rebalance the Courts.
There have always been judicially conservative Justices, who defer to standing laws, case history, and elected officials, while there have also been judicial liberal Justices who have been more than willing to upset established laws, precedents, and the intent of lawmakers to protect their interpretation of the Law and the Constitution in line with their Constitutional responsibilities.
The problem is that Presidents and lawmakers have sought to bias the Supreme Court along political divisions for their convenience.
Given Judge Garland appears to be a middle ground nominee chosen to appease Democrats and Republicans, Garland’s appointment would likely not upset the political balance of the Court too greatly. Judge Garland’s tendency to adhere to majority opinions and differ to the judgment of lawmakers should be seen as a positive to Republicans who are infuriated by an activist Court.
There is, however, one political disadvantage to nominating such a conservative Justice at this time. The future of landmark Obama Administration legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is still unclear as Republicans continue their efforts to chip away at Obama’s legacy.
A Supreme Court unwilling to overturn these laws is, therefore, not political advantageous to Republicans at this time.
Ultimately, the abuse of the Supreme Court by politicians undermines the Court’s ability to act as an impartial and politically independent arbitrator.
This is also the same reason Republicans are struggling with the nomination of Donald Trump. Not only are they unwilling to let the nomination process work as intended when the predicted results are perceived to be disadvantageous to them, they are thoroughly unwilling to accept compromise or even work toward compromise.
They demand a rigid enforcement of the rules when they see a benefit to their interests, yet want to change those rules whenever it is to their detriment. In short, the GOP’s current identify crisis is brought about by the self-serving, self-centered tendencies of its party elite.