Many people are concerned about when and how the new opening on the Supreme Court will be filled. Some of those people are not involved in politics and do not understand the process. Others know the process but wonder what will happen.
A young woman I know asked me to explain the process because she was confused about what she was hearing. She wondered how the Senate could prevent the President from nominating a person to fill the opening. I explained to her that the President had the right to nominate anyone he wants; but the Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone simply because the President nominates them.
Republicans and Democrats are clashing over how to handle the sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court, but this clash is not new. In fact, there has been a clash for over a year. “Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, the process that would enable Mr. Obama to fill vacancies on the 12 regional federal courts of appeal have essentially been halted. Mr. Obama has managed only one appointment because Republican senators have refused to sign off ahead of time on nominees for judgeships in their states – a traditional step before a president makes a nomination.
“In the weeks before Justice Scalia’s death, influential conservative groups and commentators called on Senate Republicans to ensure that Mr. Obama appointed no more appeals court judges.”
Hans von Spakovsky, an expert on such things at The Heritage Foundation, posted an interesting
article about the Senate’s responsibility in confirming new justice. He calls it a “wrong-headed argument” for the Senators to defer to the president’s choices and explains why. The entire article is interesting.
“The deference rule for executive-branch nominees should not apply, however, to judicial nominees. The judiciary is an entirely separate branch of the government, part of the system of checks designed to prevent any one branch of the government from becoming too powerful.
“Unlike executive-branch officials, federal judges do not work for the president; neither do they work for Congress. If Congress – specifically the Senate – gives undue deference to a president’s judicial nominees, it cedes tremendous power to the president to shape and control the judiciary, the third branch of the government. After all, federal judges have lifetime appointments. They serve long after a president’s term ends and long after that president’s views, policies, and priorities have been replaced by the views, policies, and priorities of a new president elected by the American people.
“Our doctrine of separation of powers demands that both the legislative and executive branches have a voice in who become federal judges with lifetime appointments. Otherwise, giving undue deference gives the executive branch too much power over what is supposed to be an independent, separate part of our federal government….
“The Senate has an absolute duty to delve deeply into the judicial philosophy of such nominees. The Senate must ensure that any nominee’s past history and prior statements demonstrate an uncompromising fidelity to the Constitution as written…. It is up to the Senate to investigate the credibility of such claims based on the nominee’s overall record, a record that provides actual evidence of his or her view of the Constitution and the rule of law.”
The process of nominating and confirming a new justice is interesting. I encourage all my readers to study the process and watch what happens. The person who is confirmed for the position may play an important in protecting and defending the Constitution; the wrong person will simply push our nation further down the slippery slope to socialism.