Almost at the moment of the unexpected death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend, Republicans exploded in full spin mode, flailing their arms wildly, not unlike the Alien famously jettisoned by Ripley into hyperspace. Their cause: selling the American people on the hype that President Obama, with nearly a year left in office, has no business appointing a new Justice to fill the vacancy. It was difficult to discern what was more disrespectful — that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and company were more concerned with pushing this meme than expressing their condolences to Justice Scalia’s family or implying that a sitting President has no right to fulfill the duties of his office — because Republicans are terrified Obama will tip the balance of the Court.
The allegedly civil and reasonable House Speaker Paul Ryan showed himself to be anything but as he echoed the cry for Republicans to block any pick of President Obama. The longest ever confirmation hearing took 125 days, so yes there is plenty of time, even in an election year. Yes, other Justices have been appointed during an election year as well.
Whether or not GOP panic is understandable, by threatening their refusal to give President Obama a fair hearing and an up or down vote on his nominee, they signal a blatant disrespect for the Constitution they pretend to hold dear while displaying childish, foot stamping behavior which may cost them in November.
Conservative North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis broke with colleagues, “calling for the GOP to at least give consideration to a potential replacement” lest they be labeled “obstructionists.” Well, that ship has sailed, as they say. Even Senator Chuck Grassley is said to be softening his position a tad, which can only mean they think they will get blow back at the polls from moderates in their own Party and rightward leaning Indies.
Perhaps McConnell, Cruz, Rubio and the rest think the reasoning that we should wait for a new President to be sworn in (a year from now) before appointing a new Justice sounds sensible (it doesn’t). President Obama has a job to do and this is part of it. And why would any newbie President prefer to make such a nomination when they’ve got hands full appointing a cabinet, having to hit the ground running on the many challenges we face at home and globally.
Republicans frustrated by a changing American demographic have been doubling down on every regressive social policy. A lot faster than they intend, they risk losing the control they have in Congress.
Conservatives have wailed that this Administration has made made every effort to cow all comers by claiming all criticism of it and President Obama himself is about race. I dislike generalizations and don’t wish to apply them here. Yet by intractable GOP behavior and disrespect of rights granted to any Chief Executive, are they making that argument for him?
The more reasoned in the GOP, and indeed there are a few left, need to pull others back from the brink lest they be viewed in the stereotypical, backward terms they abhor.