The authority and obligations that come with the presidency apply all four years. That includes filling U.S. Supreme Court openings.
So it’s disappointing that Senate Republicans aren’t even pretending to take seriously President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, the 63-year-old chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran didn’t wait for Wednesday’s announcement to fall in line with their leadership’s decision to refuse to consider any nomination by Obama to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly Feb. 13.
Even before Obama’s Rose Garden announcement Wednesday morning, Roberts, one of seven current senators who voted on and confirmed Garland’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1997, released a statement saying the appointment “should not be rushed through by a lame-duck president during an election year. This is not about the nominee, it is about giving the American people and the next president a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice.”
Moran said Wednesday: “Americans are already aware the Senate will not hold hearings or consider any Supreme Court nominee for the remainder of the year. It is difficult to imagine a path toward confirmation until a new president takes office.”
The entire Kansas delegation in the House also favors the planned pause in the Senate’s constitutional “advice and consent” responsibility, with Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, saying in a statement that “Kansans and Americans should have a voice in determining the future direction of the court and our country.”
But the president’s term and constitutional obligations won’t end for another 10 months. And when a president’s Supreme Court nominees have the education and experience to make them highly qualified – as Garland does – they deserve Senate confirmation.
That view has led The Eagle editorial board to support the nominations of every current justice, including President Bush’s choices of Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito. And the editorial board would have held the same opinion if a Supreme Court opening had occurred during the final year of Bush’s presidency.
To his discredit, Obama became part of the problem he now faces when he voted, as a senator, against confirming Roberts and Alito.
It’s been a long time since the confirmation process was above politics. But it hardly serves justice to see partisanship now blocking the way entirely, and seemingly ensuring the Supreme Court will be incomplete for months to come.