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Progressive Congress

Republican Senators Must Fulfill Their Constitutional Duty

Sen. Mitch McConnell's pronouncement to delay a Supreme Court nominee until after the election once again highlights the sometimes very personal nature of the clashes between him and President Obama. (Photo: AP)

We are on the brink of an unprecedented Constitutional crisis – one brought on by Republican leaders in the Senate.  Never in our country’s history have Senators so blatantly and explicitly refused to do their job.

It is simply a lie that there have never been any election-year appointments to the Supreme Court. In the past, six Supreme Court Justices have filled a vacancy during election years, including currently presiding Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Reagan and confirmed by a Democratic-led Senate. 

Let’s run a few numbers. The last 12 nominees were confirmed in less than 100 days. The longest gap between nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice was 137 days. The average length of time is currently 75 days. Obama has over 300 days left in his term in office, and as a duly elected President, he has not only the right but the obligation to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. That is his job and his responsibility as a sitting, democratically-elected President. In turn, the Senators must also do theirs.

There's something in the air...

Politics shouldn't get in the way of government business.  There must be a fair and timely hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. The Senate must follow the letter of the law and uphold Article II of the United States Constitution. 

There are no exceptions to the rule — this is purely a matter of Senators’ duty to their office and loyalty to the oath they took when swearing in: to uphold the Constitution. 

To refuse to even consider the President’s nominee isn’t just everyday obstructionism, it establishes an untenable precedent for the future of political transition in America. 

"When the Senators were elected, they weren’t elected to do the job of President. They were elected to fulfill their duties as Senators," stated Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus, President, Progressive Congress. " That doesn’t mean you get to pick and choose which duties you will or will not fulfill. Though the Senate majority may not agree with the politics of the situation, they must respect the system or they should consider stepping down as Senators. Senators – do your job and stop trying to usurp the job of the President. Politics do not belong in the Supreme Court."

We will not and cannot accept anything less than fulfillment of Constitutional duty by our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation.  Otherwise, our government loses its authority and purpose, and individual officials can make or break laws as they please.  That’s not a democracy—that’s an oligarchy.

Some Republicans are already expressing reservations about this drastic, radical act of disregard for the oath of public office.  We call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to head the voices of reason within his own party and reverse this dangerous position.  The late Justice Antonin Scalia loved the letter of the law and devoted the majority of his career to fighting for a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  He deserves to have his legacy honored, and his seat filled, in the time and manner that the Constitution dictates.

Olivia Alperstein

Olivia Alperstein

Olivia Alperstein is the Media Manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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