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Republicans Rebuked for Utter 'Perversion of Constitutional Duties'

Groups say GOP blocking Supreme Court justice nominee 'would cause a constitutional crisis that would shake the very foundation of our democracy'

Over 80 organizations wrote to Sen. Grassley (pictured above) denouncing the Senate Judiciary Committee's "clear perversion of constitutional duties." (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Scores of organizations representing a wide range of interests have denounced Republican obstructionism on a Supreme Court nominee, writing to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican members on Friday that their "unprecedented and destructive" decision represents "a dereliction of constitutional duty."

The letter (pdf) to committee chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and the other GOP members follows the body's letter earlier this week declaring, "This committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017," and stating that doing so was executing their "constitutional authority."

But such a claim, the 82 groups, which include Common Cause, Defenders of Wildlife, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the NAACP, write, "is a clear perversion of your constitutional duties as understood by almost every scholarly authority on the topic and by most Americans."

Their letter points to Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and states, "The Senate's duty is to evaluate a nominee's fitness and qualifications, not to pick the President making the nomination."

"It is a dereliction of your constitutional duty to handcuff the Supreme Court for two terms," the letter continues. "Your proposed course of action would cause a constitutional crisis that would shake the very foundation of our democracy."

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"We condemn this unprecedented overreach, and call on you to uphold the Constitution by giving fair consideration, including timely hearings and votes, to the next nominee to the Supreme Court."

Expressing a similar reaction is Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He writes that the Republican decision not to consider any justice nominee is "unconscionable."

"If they carry through on this threat, it will be directly incompatible with their solemn responsibilities under the United States Constitution. It would be an action morally and legally on a par with the Southern Manifesto," Stone argues.

Common Cause this week also launched a website, senatedoyourjob.org, to let users see where their senators stand on allowing Obama to appoint a nominee since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the nation's highest court evenly split.

Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have also expressed outrage over the Republican efforts to block a nominee.

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