Advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged Republicans in the U.S. Senate to reverse their decision to blockade President Barack Obama's nomination to the Supreme Court, calling it "an outrageous pledge to desert their constitutional duty."
"Keeping a vacancy empty on the highest court in the land for nearly two full court terms is unprecedented, extraordinarily reckless, and shows a blatant disrespect of the rule of law, the third branch of government and the American people," said Stephen Spaulding, senior policy counsel and legal director at the grassroots group Common Cause.
The coalition delivered more than 1.3 million signatures, collected by progressive action groups and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), pressuring Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to "put country before party" and give fair consideration to the nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. The groups, which included the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Color of Change, and Demand Progress, as well as Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.) called attention to the action on Twitter with the hashtag #DoYourJob.
The action comes in response to all 11 Republicans on the committee deciding in a closed-door meeting to deny hearings or a vote on any nomination to the court in 2016. Scalia's death has left the nation's highest court evenly split between liberals and conservatives and prompted a debate over whether Obama should appoint a nominee while still in office or wait for the next administration to make a decision.
"This is not governance, it’s obstinance," said Wade Henderson, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "For the Senate Republicans to refuse to even meet with a Supreme Court nominee is playground politics at its worst."
"To refuse to act on a nomination of this magnitude is a failure to govern," Henderson said. "We urge these senators to take a step back and consider what legacy of governance they want to leave for our country."
As Common Dreams previously reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on the Senate floor Tuesday, "Presidents have a right to nominate just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making in November the decision they've already started making today."
In an televised interview on Wednesday, Obama dismissed those remarks and reiterated his intention to appoint a nominee, stating, "I understand that this is an important issue for [Republicans'] constituencies.... But that's how our democracy is supposed to work."
"I'm going to do my job. I'm going to nominate somebody and let the American people decide whether they're qualified."