Our View: Unprecedented obstruction

Posted Feb. 18, 2016 at 12:01 AM

Despite arguments to the contrary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even hold a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee is unprecedented, going far beyond the worst of the Democrats’ past tactics.
Barely two hours after the first report of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, McConnell said a replacement should wait nearly a year. “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
The American people had a voice in 2012, when they re-elected Obama by a comfortable margin. According to the Constitution, which Scalia is revered for defending, the president is responsible for nominating Supreme Court justices, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate.
Contrary to assertions of a tradition of not confirming nominations in a president’s final year, no such tradition exists. In 1988, Ronald Reagan’s last year in office, the Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy’s appointment to the court, 97-0, including McConnell and Sen. Charles Grassley, now Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
It’s true that Kennedy was nominated in 1987, after Reagan’s first choice, Robert Bork, was savaged by Democrats and ultimately rejected, and his second pick withdrew. It’s also true that Democrats in 2007 vowed to block any George W. Bush nominee who wasn’t “in the mainstream.”
It’s expected that Republicans will oppose a nominee they dislike — after a confirmation hearing. It’s refusing to even hold a hearing that is unprecedented.

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