The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sent shock waves throughout the political and judicial world on Saturday afternoon. The conversation online revolved around condolences and the surprise of the longtime jurist’s passing for all of about ten minutes before the focus turned to politics. Senate Republicans made clear very quickly that they had no intention of confirming a new Supreme Court justice so long as Barack Obama is President.
Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley will play the key, high-profile role in the process as the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who would handle a potential nominating hearing. He chose to join his Republican counterparts in vowing to obstruct any effort by President Obama to carry out his constitutional duty of nominating a replacement.
Grassley released the following statement a few hours after Scalia’s death was confirmed:
“Justice Scalia was an intellectual giant. His originalist interpretation of the Constitution set the standard for the court. He had an unwavering dedication to the founding document that has guided our country for nearly 230 years. His humor, devotion to the Constitution and quick wit will be remembered for years to come. Barbara and I send our prayers to Justice Scalia’s family.
“The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”
To either not hold hearings or have a vote or confirm a nominee would be a departure from Supreme Court nominations in recent years. And the longest time that a nominating process to last through confirmation was 125 days. Obama has a little over 11 months still in office.
Grassley argues that the Senate should let the American people weigh in on who the next justice should be in the general election. That, however, would assume that voters thought they were only electing Obama to a three-year term when they voted to re-elect him in 2012. Most Republicans are using similar language about not nominating a justice during an election year, but the obvious reasoning here is that they simply don’t want a Democrat, even though he’s the President, to get a choice. Rather, their hope is a Republican will retake the White House in the 2016 election.
Actually, Grassley essentially lies in his statement about how a justice hasn’t been confirmed in an election year vote in 80 years. They have. Indeed, here’s a video of Grassley praising the speedy nomination of Anthony Kennedy in the presidential election year of 1988:
— Greg Greene (@ggreeneva) February 14, 2016
by Pat Rynard
Photo by Gage Skidmore