Fearful that any attempt to delay action on Obama’s pending nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Antonin Scalia, some Republicans appear ready to back off today, Thursday Feb. 17, of their initial vow to delay hearings on any nominee until after this year’s presidential election. Only once in modern times has a new Court justice been chosen in an election year. But a few Republicans appear ready to do just that despite there being no time frame whatsoever in the Constitution that mandates when a nominee or how long such a nominee is to be considered by Congress. There are no deadlines despite the near hysteria of Obama who insists that the vacancy be filled now.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is one of the Republicans who appears to be frightened out of his wits that his Party may be labeled obstructionist unless the Senate takes up any Obama nominee immediately. This was reported in several news outlets today, Feb. 17 and yesterday, Feb. 16. And just a few miles away in South Carolina some professors of political science in local colleges tell news reporters on a daily basis that any delay may backfire on Republicans. The voters should see this for what it is — shameless and unnecessary fear mongering. A lengthy delay is no Constitutional crisis in spite of the hysterical screams of the alarmists among news reporters and Democrats.
However, the question begs an answer as to how Republicans could be characterized as obstructionist when Harry Reid and Senate Democrats did the same and much worse when they controlled the Senate just a few short years ago. Reid refused to allow an up or down vote on Bush nominee John Bolton as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Bush resorted to making a series of recess appointments that would allow Bolton to serve while Congress was not in session. But once Congress was called back into session the position went vacant again all because of Reid’s obstructionism. This went on for several years.
Then, there is the famous, or infamous, video clip showing veteran Senate Democrat Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urging his colleagues to block any Bush nomination for the Supreme Court during the last 18 months of his term of office. While Obama, Reid, Schumer, and other Democrats pitch a fit about waiting 11 months for a new president to submit a nomination for the Court, the established news media conveniently fails to report the most egregious obstructionism of all when Harry Reid and the Democratic Party controlled the Senate.
When it was first reported that Scalia had died and that Obama planned to fast track another nominee through to the Supreme Court, the most powerful Republicans in the nation vowed that there would be no hearings on a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. These sentiments were voiced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, veteran Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah, Sen. Tim Scott of S.C., Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, among others. But perhaps the key senator in this process is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. Grassley stated early on that he had no intention of placing on the docket a series of hearings for any new nominee for the Supreme Court until after the election. The Senate Judiciary Committee is the entity that is charged with vetting and questioning any nominee for the Supreme Court. This Committee also decides whether or not any nominee has the support to receive an up or down vote. A majority of the Committee must vote in favor of the nominee, or else that nominee is rejected and the president must decide if he wants to submit a different nominee.
For a presidential nominee to be rejected by the Senate is nothing new. In 1987 or so, a Democrat controlled Senate rejected two Reagan nominees in a row. Reagan was forced to go to a third choice before he could get a nominee approved, and that process took 18 months. Eighteen months without the ninth justice on the Supreme Court did not lead to disaster. The sky did not fall nor was the country held in the grip of dangerous gridlock. The Democrats, this time, can be the ones who are forced to wait. It may actually do them some good to know that the very same tactics they never hesitated to use against Republicans and conservatives can be used against them too. And the Republic will carry on in spite of any Court vacancy.