Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, staunch Constitutional originalist, was not yet buried when Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed to defy the United States Constitution governing the justice’s replacement, violating the part of his oath of office requiring him to support and defend the law of the land.
These facts are not in question, though a national debate about what to do about McConnell’s position, all but sidestepping the unconstitutional, un-American nature of the pledge, is under way.
Since then, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Republican candidates for president,and opinion columnists have called for “the people” – ie., the voting public, to decide who will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.
I could not agree more. Respect the people’s 2012 decision in this matter, and grant fair hearings on President Barack Obama’s appointment.
Voters did not elect a president for a portion of a term in 2012. The timing of the appointment and the prospect of a tipping liberal influence on the Supreme Court are irrelevant. The Constitution does not allow McConnell to choose the timing of the appointment. McConnell’s presumption shows a disregard for the outcome of the 2012 election, for every voter who went to the polls (Republican and Democrat alike) and for American democracy itself.
But don’t just judge the matter on logic and fact. Take McConnell’s own words and actions, as reported in the Quartz.com article, “Past Mitch McConnell and Present Mitch McConnell Don’t Agree on Supreme Court Appointments”:
“[McConnell] also voted to confirm justice Anthony Kennedy in Feb. 1988, the final year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And in 2005, in response to Democratic opposition to a number of George W. Bush’s appointments to federal appellate courts, he pined to The Los Angeles Times for Senate tradition: ‘…up-or-down votes on the president’s nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who’s in control of the Senate,’ ”
The Senate is not required to approve the President’s appointment outright, but it is bound to hold hearings in a reasonable attempt to vet the nominee. GOP Senate leadership could have simply gone through the motions, following the letter of the law without any real intent to honor the Constitution. Had they done that, getting the surreptitious agreement on the record would’ve been a coup for any political reporter.
But McConnell didn’t bother trying to hide his intent to thwart the Constitution. The Senator has made obstructing Obama part of his political strategy from the beginning of the President’s first term in office, as noted by Alec MacGillis, writer for Slate.com, ProPublica.org, and author of “The Cynic,” a biography of McConnell published in 2014.
That obstructionism has slowed and weakened the US economy’s recovery from the Great Recession, as reported by the Daily Kos in 2012, led to the Federal government shutdown in 2013, and encouraged a deliberate attempt to undermine US foreign policy.
Nothing, it seems, is more important to McConnell and his followers than this plan; not the ability of the average American to earn a living, not the government’s responsibility to keep the country running, not national security nor diplomacy.
Neither is the plain language of the Constitution.
McConnell’s oath of office requires him to commit to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, including, reasonable observers would agree, his own political ambition.
Defend America from your ambition, Sen. McConnell. It threatens us with irreparable harm.
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