Republican leaders in the Senate emerged from behind closed doors Tuesday, apparently believing they could intimidate President Barack Obama and defraud the American people into believing they have a Constitutional right to refuse to hold hearings on any nominee the president appoints to the United States Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia, who died February 13. In a scathing indictment of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and all but two Republican senators – who have collectively refused to take any action on any nominee from the president – The New York Times Editorial Board notes: “Mr. McConnell and his colleagues plan to shut their doors, plug their ears and hope the public doesn’t notice. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to rationalize this behavior. Don’t be fooled. It is panic masquerading as strength.”
President Obama has made it clear that he intends “to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities and nominate a successor in due time… . And there will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote…These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone.”
However, as the Times notes: “Senate Republicans apparently believe they can profit by creating a political crisis that the nation has never seen before,” by pledging not to hold hearings. McConnell, in particular, who “seems to have lost touch with reality and the Constitution,” suggests that any attempt to name a successor will be futile and destructive.
McConnell, in a statement the Times refers to as “dripping with saracasm,” said that the president “has every right to nominate someone, and even if doing so will inevitably plunge our nation into another bitter and avoidable struggle, that is his right. Even if he never expects that nominee to actually be confirmed but rather to wield as an electoral cudgel, that is his right.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the majority whip, stated, with no apparent irony: “We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president.” Forgetting for the moment we are a representative democracy and the Constitution vests the right to nominate Supreme Court justices in the duly elected president (not the people), Cornyn ignores the glaring fact that the American people have decided – they overwhelmingly elected President Obama to two terms in office. Cornyn’s argument is simply Republican obstructionism, since “the lame-duck period is broadly understood to run from after the November election until a new president is inaugurated in January.” With November being approximately eight months from now, and the Senate never having taken more than 125 days to vote on a successor, there is ample time for the Senate to fulfill its Constitutional duty and vote on Scalia’s replacement.
As the Times notes, it is “preposterous to accuse Mr. Obama of causing a bitter struggle by nominating someone who will not be confirmed. The only reason a nominee would not be confirmed is that the Senate has pre-emptively decided to block any nominee sight unseen.” This truly preposterous approach – obstruction to political process – has become the Republican’s default tactic used for most all political disagreements. Remember when the Republicans chose to actually shut down the government in October 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act, requiring 800,000 federal employees to be furloughed – at a cost to taxpayers of more than $24 billion?
These are the same Republicans who looked to shun and spurn their responsibility to negotiate with Democrats by threatening to shut down the government over continued funding for Planned Parenthood after the circulation of criminally doctored phony videos created and circulated by an anti-abortion group. The same Republican Congress who, earlier this year, chose to threaten to shut down the government over immigration policy. And this is the same Republican-controlled Congress, who, earlier this month, said the president’s budget is “dead on arrival” and refused to invite the director of the Office of Management and Budget – as is customary – to testify about the administration’s plans.
The Republicans’ unrelenting, knee-jerk belligerent attitude toward President Obama, their racism and disrespect, is unprecedented. Remember when 47 Republican senators sent a letter to Iran to undermine the ongoing nuclear negotiations? We are now awash in conspiracy theories surrounding Scalia’s death. McConnell has thrown down the gauntlet, vowing that if President Obama, in accord with his constitutional responsibilities, nominates a replacement for Scalia, the president will “inevitably plunge our nation into another bitter and avoidable struggle.” The Republican’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. It is racist and shocking rebuke of President Obama’s authority and the measure of respect he not only deserves, but has rightfully earned.