As the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings establish legal precedent and can have monumental impact, it is gravely important that its members, regardless of liberal or conservative philosophy, are people of stellar training and character.
Judge Merrick Garland, a Chicago native, qualifies on all counts and deserves to be confirmed by the United States Senate to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. That Garland might be denied not only a seat but even a hearing after his nomination by President Obama would be an outrage. It would be an affront not just to Obama, whom Republican leaders have vowed to stymie at every turn, but to the Constitution. The president is charged with filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, and Obama, with almost a year left in his term, is doing his duty.
Under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican senators, including North Carolina’s Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, want to deny the president his duty for partisan reasons that put their party above their country.
Republicans say Scalia’s replacement should not be nominated by a “lame duck” president and decided in an election year. Obama is not a lame duck. He is completing his second term, the result of two elections that show he reflects the “will of the people” that Republicans want reflected in this Supreme Court choice. As for the election year objection, the Senate has voted on eight Supreme Court nominees during election years since 1900 and has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a Supreme Court nominee.
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Garland, 63, is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, where he has served with distinction since 1997. He was valedictorian of Harvard and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. He has experience as a private attorney and as a federal prosecutor and has won high praise in every job he has ever held.
One of those jobs was in the U.S. Department of Justice, and as part of his duties there, Garland oversaw the prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombings.
As a federal judge, Garland has already been confirmed once by the Senate. Republican senators now are in a quandary. If they turn down this obviously qualified judge without so much as a hearing, they’ll be judged as ideologues defying a president who is following the Constitution. If they do give Garland a hearing, his intellect and qualifications will quickly become obvious, and it will be all the more difficult for them to vote down his nomination.
Republicans need to serve their country and do their own duty. If the Supreme Court remains at a 4-4 philosophical split, it will be rendered ineffective. The high court needs to be at full strength.