Our opinion: GOP should stop its awful obstruction
The hypocrisy of the GOP is often readily apparent to those who have the inclination to look beneath its sound bites.
The public should also look beyond the GOP's exhortations meant to induce terror and anger, and its stated belief that government is not the solution, it's the problem (while its puppet masters profit greatly from government programs).
The GOP's hypocrisy has been on illuminated display since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died during an exclusive hunting trip to Texas. The GOP's refusal to conduct a hearing on a sitting president's nomination is not only unprecedented, it also threatens the checks and balances that have precariously gotten this country where it is today.
Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, is one of the GOP's most prominent voices in preventing the nomination of Merrick Garland from reaching the floor of the Senate. He's also been one of the fiercest opponents to anything and everything Pres. Barack Obama has attempted in the past seven or so year.
"The president has appointed two Supreme Court justices and many lower court judges who have embraced the sort of judicial activism Justice Scalia spent his career seeking to curtail," wrote Hatch, in a New York Times opinion piece on March 28, while neglecting to mention that Scalia introduced his own brand of judicial activism that repelled many Americans.
"As a senator, Mr. Obama even opposed the nominations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — two eminently qualified mainstream jurists — because they expressed fidelity to the law as written, rather than a commitment to progressive policy outcomes," noted Hatch, and we wish then senator Obama had been more successful in preventing Roberts and Alito from reaching the high court and setting back American progress several decades, at least to the 1950s.
We forgive you if you can't get past Hatch's line, which made us spit out our coffee: "Justice Antonin Scalia was among the greatest jurists in our nation's history ... a model of careful jurisprudence, reinvigorating an originalist interpretation of the Constitution for a new generation." Scalia was a horrible justice who will be known more for his cutting wit in support of 1950s-era policies rather than for his "careful jurisprudence."
Then Hatch jumps on that right-wing hobby horse about Obama and his "contempt for the constitutional principles that Justice Scalia sought to protect ... the president has consistently exceeded the scope of his legitimate constitutional authority ..."
Mark S. Byrnes, writing for the History New Network, easily blows this talking point out of the water. "The Constitution provides Congress with a remedy for a president who exceeds the scope of legitimate constitutional authority: impeachment. The simple fact that a Republican House has not taken up impeachment reveals Hatch's point for the nonsense it is."
Hatch also accuses the president of appointing "two Supreme Court justices and many lower court judges who have embraced the sort of judicial activism Justice Scalia spent his career seeking to curtail. Largely in reaction to such abuses, the American people elected a Republican Senate majority in 2014 to help restrain the president," wrote Hatch. He, like many politicians, is confusing "the American people" with the majority of the people who even bothered to turn out to vote in 2014. And the way the GOP is cruising right now, that majority will be gone in 2017.
Hatch then goes on to note "the Biden rule," which conveniently no one ever heard of until Scalia died. In 1992, then-senator Joe Biden took to the floor in a speech addressing the Senate president to urge delay if a vacancy did appear. But, as Politifact noted, he didn't argue for a delay until the next president began his term ... he said the nomination process should be put off until after the election. At the time of Biden's comments, there was no Supreme Court vacancy to fill, there was no nominee to consider and the Senate never took a vote to adopt a rule to delay consideration of a nominee until after the election, pointed out Politifact. "It's ridiculous, it doesn't exist," stated Biden earlier this month. "(D)eciding in advance to turn your back before the president even names a nominee is not an option the Constitution leaves open. It's quite frankly an abdication of duty, and one that has been never happened in our history."
But Orrin Hatch and his gang of obstructionists don't let facts stand in their way of reaching a conclusion. "Throughout its history, the Senate has never confirmed a nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that occurred this late in a term-limited president's time in office," wrote Hatch.
"The historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election," wrote Amy Howe for Scotus Blog. "In that period, there were several nominations and confirmations of Justices during presidential election years."
Hatch then sheds crocodile tears for Judge Robert Bork, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan but denied the nomination by a Democrat-controlled Senate in 1987. He then goes on to remind us of the Clarence Thomas nomination process. "Given this record, Democrats have no credibility in lecturing Republicans on how to conduct the current confirmation process." With all due respect, Mr. Hatch, in both those instances, confirmation hearings were held, which is hardly the same as now, with many Republicans refusing to even meet with Garland.
"No one is claiming that Hatch or any other Republican has to support Obama's nominee — just that Judge Garland deserves a hearing and a vote," wrote Byers. "Republicans now are as free as Obama was (as a senator) to oppose the confirmation of the nominee."
Byers also notes that Obama could have picked a much more left-leaning candidate for the Supreme Court, but didn't.
"He did not chose someone who was a darling of the Democratic left, but someone who has (in the past) been repeatedly praised by Republicans, including Hatch himself. By refusing to even consider the nominee of the elected president, it is Hatch and the Senate Republicans who are not respecting the 'split decision' of the American people, not the president. They are saying that the smaller subset of the American public that elected those Senate Republicans can simply ignore the decision of the entire national electorate in the last presidential election."
As Byers noted, if Hatch and his fellow Republicans want to vote against Judge Garland, they have every right to do so. But they should stop being cowards. "They should make a substantive argument against him. Vote against him, and accept the political consequences of that vote. They should stop pretending that this reckless path they have chosen is anything but a desperate attempt to hold onto a Supreme Court majority."