March 20, 2016

Taking Republican Thinking to Its Logical Conclusion

Republican Senators conveniently have found (i.e., invented out of thin air) the principle that a president should not be granted a Supreme Court nominee in his last year in office. Supposedly, this is so that “the people,” through the upcoming presidential election, will have a say in who is appointed. Of course, “the people” never have a direct voice in Supreme Court nominations, and they have twice elected President Barack Obama. President Obama has exercised his constitutional duty in nominating Judge Merrick Garland.

If one is to take Senate Republicans seriously, putting aside the obvious fact that they simply do not want the balance on the Supreme Court to change and are willing to use any political chicanery they can think of to to postpone it, then the principle should be taken to its logical conclusion.

The Senate of the 114th Congress comprises 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 2 Independents. Republicans control the Senate by virtue of their majority. However, the terms of 24 Republicans and 10 Democrats expire next January. They are, in other words, in the final year of their terms. One might just as well argue that the short-term Senators are really in a situation no different from that of President Obama. Shouldn’t these short termers recuse themselves from voting on Supreme Court nominees, letting voters determine who gets to make decisions regarding the Supreme Court? If Senators in their last year of office are recused from voting on Supreme Court nominees—maybe they should refrain from voting on anything at all—we would effectively have a Senate of 30 Republicans, 34 Democrats, and 2 independents, i.e., a Democratic majority.

Of course, all this is silly. Presidents are elected for four years; Senators are elected for six years. Their powers expire on their last day in office and not before.

Let the Senate refuse to deal with the Garland nomination. President Hillary Clinton can then nominate a young, genuine liberal to the court. Then the Republicans will be sorry. Both political and poetic justice will be served.

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