US Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently made the case that “two wrongs make it OK” in opposing confirmation hearings caused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death. The approach perverts the old wisdom “Two wrongs do not make right”.
Hatch opposes any consideration of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) because, according to Hatch, Democrats have done it too. Political maturity not at its best.
Disingenuously, the Utah senator observed in an editorial, “Let the American people decide whether they want Hillary Clinton or the Republican nominee to select the next Supreme Court justice”.
He further wrote, “Let a new President with a clear mandate, not a term-limited President with less than one year left in office who faced a historic rebuke by voters in the last midterm election, make this crucial decision”.
Hatch said on Fox Business that once voting starts in a presidential campaign the incumbent in the White House has no right to nominate. The 9 minute interview exposes Hatch as playing a game at the expense of fairness and objectivity.
The president won clear majorities in both his elections. Unlike George W. Bush, Barack Obama never had the illegitimacy of winning the electoral vote without the popular vote. Image if Bush was told because he had lost the popular vote he should not have anything approved by Congress, let alone a SCOTUS nomination?
Like it or not, Barack Obama is the country’s president until January 2017. Carry through the logic that he’s a lame duck president. Don’t pass any budget he submits. Vote down any bill initiated by the president in the next ten months submitted to Congress.
Hatch, like others opposed to considering the president’s nomination, invoke the “American people”. There is a certain hubris in doing so. The Utah senator could never get elected in a state like Vermont, Oregon, Washington, or New York, to name a few.
It’s for this reason the legislative process should be about consensus. The process shouldn’t be about “my way or the highway”. Hold hearings. Conduct an up or down vote. If Garland doesn’t get confirmed, the president needs to find someone he and the Senate can agree on.
Adding to Hatch’s less than helpful approach is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He too charged that Democrats had done the same thing to Republican candidates. Assuming for discussion purposes he’s right, it was an opportunity to rise above the muck and be better than the Democrats. Instead, McConnell advocated a political tit-for-tat.
Recently, US Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative Republican appointee, recently lamented the selection and appointment of justices to the high court is too political.
He observed that the court doesn’t “work as Democrats or Republicans and I think it’s a very unfortunate impression the public might get from the confirmation process”. The last three justices won confirmation based on party lines. According to Roberts, “That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees”.
Hatch and McConnell’s gamesmanship, no worse than what Democrats have sometimes done, undermine the republic and re-enforce the public’s widely held negative views of Washington.
Paul P. Jesep is an attorney, public policy analyst, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis”.