Senate Republicans are playing right into President Barack Obama’s hands by refusing to even consider his nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court.
The GOP leadership can point to similar stands by Democrats and quote Joe Biden and others all they want. But that is like a child excusing misbehavior by whining, “Bobby did it first.”
The Democrats’ hypocrisy does not justify the Senate’s refusal to do what clearly is its constitutional duty: to “advise and consent” on the president’s nomination.
The Constitution says nothing about the “people deciding” Supreme Court appointments. It is clear about the president’s authority to nominate justices.
Obama has boxed Senate President Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in with the nomination of Garland, a well-regarded moderate judge who is a strong law-and-order advocate. At 63 he is older than most court nominees, which looks to be a calculated concession to Republicans by Obama.
Garland earned a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor and astutely supervised the Justice Department’s response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where his legal acumen is highly regarded.
He obviously won’t bring to the court the brilliant conservatism of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But Garland is no flaming liberal.
The GOP is taking a big gamble with its obstinacy. Should a Democrat be elected president, it is unlikely the nominee will be someone nearly as even-handed as Garland.
If McConnell and GOP senators want to block Obama’s nomination, they should have the courage of their convictions and vote this obviously qualified candidate down, which is their right.
If not, they are going to come off looking like whiny obstructionists to Americans not blinded by partisanship.