@ChuckGrassley & rest of Senate GOP: no hearings on Obama SupCo nominee

Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff just emailed the following announcement:

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans today sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicating that they will exercise their constitutional authority to withhold consent of a Supreme Court nomination and will not hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee until the next President is sworn in.
               
The letter, signed by all Judiciary Committee Republicans, says, “Accordingly, given the particular circumstances under which this vacancy arises, we wish to inform you of our intention to exercise our constitutional authority to withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy.  Because our decision is based on constitutional principle and born of a necessity to protect the will of the American people, this Committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next President is sworn in on January 20, 2017.”

Committee members wrote that they wanted, “To ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time.”  Concerns have been raised about the President already indicating that he has no intention of nominating somebody in the mold of Justice Scalia. Regardless, it is principle over the person that matters most.

As former Judiciary Committee Chairman and current Vice-President Joe Biden said in a speech given on the Senate floor, “It is my view that if the President goes the way of Presidents Fillmore and Johnson and presses an election-year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”  And as he said, it does not matter, “How good a person is nominated by the President.” 

A copy of the text of the letter is below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell,

As we write, we are in the midst of a great national debate over the course our country will take in the coming years. The Presidential election is well underway. Americans have already begun to cast their votes. As we mourn the tragic loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, and celebrate his life’s work, the American people are presented with an exceedingly rare opportunity to decide, in a very real and concrete way, the direction the Court will take over the next generation. We believe The People should have this opportunity.

Over the last few days, much has been written about the constitutional power to fill Supreme Court vacancies, a great deal of it inaccurate. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution is clear.  The President may nominate judges of the Supreme Court. But the power to grant, or withhold, consent to such nominees rests exclusively with the United States Senate. This is not a difficult or novel constitutional question. As Minority Leader Harry Reid observed in 2005, “The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give the Presidential nominees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.”

We intend to exercise the constitutional power granted the Senate under Article II, Section 2 to ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time.  Not since 1932 has the Senate confirmed in a presidential election year a Supreme Court nominee to a vacancy arising in that year. And it is necessary to go even further back — to 1888 — in order to find an election year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under divided government, as we have now.

Accordingly, given the particular circumstances under which this vacancy arises, we wish to inform you of our intention to exercise our constitutional authority to withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy.  Because our decision is based on constitutional principle and born of a necessity to protect the will of the American people, this Committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next President is sworn in on January 20, 2017.

Sincerely,
Chuck Grassley
Orrin Hatch
Jeff Sessions
Lindsey Graham
John Cornyn
Mike Lee
Ted Cruz
Jeff Flake
David Vitter
David Perdue
Thom Tillis       

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.