Senator Chuck Grassley’s breakfast tomorrow morning with President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, will likely get a lot of attention because of Obama’s insistence – over precedent and tradition – that the U.S. Senate confirm a new justice in the last year of his presidency. There will be no way for the American people to hold Obama accountable if, as expected, Garland would side with the other liberal justices on every meaningful case, even though the public is opposed to a liberal-dominated Supreme Court.
Yet this is exactly why the Democrats are making such a big push for Garland to be confirmed now: to force a liberal majority on the Supreme Court for the next generation, even though the American people voted to give the GOP a Senate majority as a check against just such initiatives.
Grassley has been a courageous, staunch supporter of a bipartisan unwritten rule in effect for most of the last century: if a Supreme Court vacancy emerges in an election year – especially if the federal government is divided between the two political parties – the American people deserve a voice in deciding who the next justice will be through their votes for president and U.S. Senate. The president can only nominate, it is the Senate that has the constitutional role of advising, consenting and ultimately confirming that nominee to the court.
Grassley is not alone. Fifty-one of his 53 Republican colleagues agree with him, and anyone following the U.S. Senate over the last several years will know this is a rare occurrence. Even Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, after meeting with Judge Garland, expressed reluctance and concern about the judge’s rulings in cases on key issues such as gun control and environmental regulations. His concerns are well-founded as even the New York Times says a Supreme Court with Judge Garland on it “would be the most liberal in decades.”
Manchin’s honesty flies in the face of the rank hypocrisy of his fellow Democrats – including none other than Vice President Joe Biden. It was Biden who, as then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992 (when George H.W. Bush was running for re-election), said his committee should not confirm anyone to the high court until after that year’s presidential election.
What is especially ironic about the Democrats’ position: had a liberal justice passed away in 2008 – when George W. Bush was in his last year as president and the Democrats held a Senate majority as the GOP does today – on the same date as Justice Antonin Scalia did this year, February 13th, already voters in 34 states plus the District of Columbia would have cast votes for president for either Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. Let there be no illusions as to whether or not Democratic Senate leaders Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Dick Durbin would be advocating for a hearing and a vote on anyone President Bush would put forward as a nominee to fill that vacancy – especially when two members of their caucus were trying to make history as either the first African-American or first woman president.
They would say exactly what the Republicans are saying today.
Which brings us back to Senator Grassley’s breakfast with Judge Garland, as well as Garland’s meetings with other Republican Senators this week. Whether or not Senators choose to meet with Judge Garland is up to them, most grassroots conservatives across the country don’t have an opinion either way on meetings.
What we applaud is the almost unanimous position taken by GOP Senators that they won’t let President Obama deny the public a voice in this decision by holding hearings and casting votes. The fiction spread by congressional liberals and their allied special interest groups that the Court cannot do its work has already been debunked by both liberal Justice Stephen Breyer and conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who’ve said the court’s work won’t be hindered or impeded by Scalia’s absence.
These justices and Senator Grassley are all correct. The court can, and will, do its work and public should, and will, have its say in who fills the great intellectual void left by Antonin Scalia.
Jenny Beth Martin is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.