Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Republicans Seeking to Thwart the Constitution

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has wandered off the GOP reservation again - or escaped what is now the GOP insane asylum depending on one's views.  In her latest column in the Washington Post, she takes Republicans to task for their efforts to obstruct any Supreme Court nominee that Barack Obama may submit.  Not only is such action against the U.S. Constitution, but it underscores the divisiveness and hypocrisy that are now among the main hallmarks of the Republican Party and its angry white base.  Here are column highlights:
As Republican presidential candidates invoke Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s legacy, all insisting that his suddenly vacant seat shouldn’t be filled until a new president is in place, it is helpful to ask: What would Scalia do? 

First, Scalia would read the law and, without much chin-stroking, recommend the obvious intent of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which reads: “[The president] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . judges of the Supreme Court.”

See? That wasn’t complicated. And the Senate can always reject a nominee. Yet Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that no Supreme Court nominations would get to the floor.  . . . .
All Republican candidates have expressed agreement with McConnell, with Donald Trump being the most vocal and least nuanced: “Delay, delay, delay,” he said inimitably at Saturday’s debate in South Carolina, just hours after the nation learned of Scalia’s death. 

As unseemly as such political proclamations are so soon after the justice’s death, Scalia likely would have found the shenanigans childishly amusing. Unerringly faithful to the rule of law — and deferential to the executive and legislative branches — he would have understood the politics but not the point.

The law is clear.  But politics are something else, and Republicans have decided that, at least on this matter, the people should have a voice. Inarguably, with three justices likely to retire during the next presidency and Scalia’s seat now empty, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

But, if you’ll pardon this intrusion of logic, haven’t the people already had a voice? Didn’t a majority of the people reelect President Obama, and doesn’t he have nearly a year left to serve out his term? Lame duck doesn’t mean dead duck — and this president’s still quacking.

[O]riginalists would have to concede that it’s the president’s job to nominate a replacement for an empty Supreme Court seat and the Senate’s job to advise and consent — or dissent, as the case may be. Yet to Republicans, the idea of Obama fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities falls somewhere between apocalyptic and absurd.

So why would the GOP, professed stewards of original intent, seek to thwart the Constitution’s clear purpose? Again, not complicated.

First, because several cases that Republicans hoped would result in their favor hang in the balance. With a 4-to-4 vote, the lower courts’ rulings stand.

Republicans are playing with fire. Is this really a precedent they wish to set? Which of these candidates in the fourth or eighth year of his presidency would surrender his own nominating powers to a successor? And, finally, what if the next president is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

The GOP’s calculation, apparently, is that the greater risk lies in Obama’s nominating a reasonably moderate liberal who passes all the usual tests that Republicans can’t rationally block. If Obama were feeling frisky, he might select a Hispanic or Asian judge, thus helping ensure that the Republican “Big Tent” collapsed from the weight of emptiness.

[I]t may seem wiser to avoid the advise-and-consent process, but hypocrisy takes no prisoners. You can’t attach yourself to Scalia’s originalist virtues and also ignore the rule of law he so passionately defended. 

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