On the EDge: Note to Republicans: Stop disrespecting the presidency

OPINION – If you thought Election 2016 was bad before, hang onto your hats. It is about to become unbearable.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Saturday has injected a new level of partisanship into the election that is going to sink this campaign season to unprecedented depths of turmoil, angst and anger as Republicans vow to interfere with the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.

It didn’t take long for Republicans to politicize Scalia’s death.

Screenshot of tweet by Ted Cruz Feb. 13, 2016 | Screenshot by Ed Kociela, St. George News
Screenshot of tweet by Ted Cruz Feb. 13, 2016 | Screenshot by Ed Kociela, St. George News

learning the news, GOP candidate Ted Cruz tweeted: “Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

And, Conn Carroll, an aide to Utah Sen. Mike Lee, tweeted: “What is less than zero? The chances of Obama successfully appointing a Supreme Court Justice to replace Scalia?”

(Note to readers: The grammar and punctuation are not mine. These quotes are taken directly from Twitter accounts.)

Saturday night during the Republican debate, Cruz fanned the fires when he said: “We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year.”

Screenshot of tweet by Conn Carroll Feb. 13, 2016 | Screenshot by Ed Kociela, St. George News
Screenshot of tweet by Conn Carroll Feb. 13, 2016 | Screenshot by Ed Kociela, St. George News

That simply is not true. Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by the Senate in 1988 during Ronald Reagan’s last year in office.

Cruz continued his attack on the president and the Constitution Sunday morning when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “This should be a decision for the people. Let the election decide.”

Cruz also threatened to filibuster any nomination made by the president.

I’ve got news for Cruz and any Republican trying to coerce the president into not making an appointment. That decision was made by the American people four years ago when they elected Barack Obama.

He won.

You lost.

Deal with it.

Do not further insult this presidency by trying to invalidate the final year of the Obama administration. Do not further insult a Constitution you savage and disregard with regularity as you twist your interpretation of it to suit your own agenda by doing such things as demanding the president ignore his duty to appoint a new Supreme Court justice. Do not further disrespect a presidency you have ambushed at every opportunity. Do not further divide a nation you have already split into intractable cells of anger, racism and a faux religious platform that is exclusionary, judgmental and intolerant.

Democrats have had enough of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and the rest of the arrogant ideologues who would be king. There is only one way to deal with bullies like Rubio, Cruz and Trump and that is to stand up to them. I mean, if they are already trying to inflict their will on the people, what will happen if one of these guys is elected? I guarantee it will only get worse because a leopard never changes its spots.

If we have learned anything in the last few days it is that the energy spent on this latest GOP talking point serves as a reminder of how important the 2016 campaign is, particularly down the ballot where 34 senators will be up for election.

Republicans currently control the Senate with 54 seats. The Democrats hold 44 seats. There are two independents who caucus with the Democrats. How solid that hold will be if, indeed, the Republicans obstruct an Obama nominee remains to be seen.

But, there is some one-upmanship at play as Democrats have already taunted the GOP demand to wait until after the election to nominate a new justice by positing that the new president – either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders – could nominate constitutional scholar Barack Obama to the court. I seriously doubt the president would accept such an appointment after serving two tough terms as president, but one never knows.

This Court has been a relatively moderate group.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan pretty well anchor the liberal side of the Court. Justice Stephen Breyer runs a bit more moderate. The right is represented by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alioto. Kennedy is a clear-cut moderate. Scalia was a strong conservative voice on the bench.

A third Obama nominee – he nominated Sotomayor and Kagan – could clearly tip the court. Given the age of several members of the court – Kennedy is 79, Ginsburg is 82 and Breyer is 77 – the next president probably will have a longstanding influence on the Supreme Court.

There are important, politically charged decisions coming before the court, from immigration to abortion. That’s why we will, without question, see the Republicans dig in their heels and drag this out for as long as it is politically advantageous. It is why the party is already trying to bully Obama into passing on his constitutional duty to nominate a replacement for Scalia. Obama, however, has already said that he plans to put a nominee before the Senate.

“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” he said Saturday evening. “These are responsibilities I take seriously, as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party, they are about our democracy.”

So, the gauntlet has been thrown down by both sides.

Will we see a year’s delay in naming and confirming a new Supreme Court justice?

Hopefully not, although all along, I have thought that the Republicans would do all they could to block any Democratic legislation proposed this year. That is, unfortunately, the face of 2016 politics.

But, I thought that sort of obstructionism was more likely to come in other areas.

There is the possibility that the president could make what is known as a recess appointment – something he has done in the past to fill other positions – and appoint a new justice while the Senate is dark.

Now, before you go berserk on this, understand that there is clear precedent. Twelve justices have been seated while the Senate was in recess. In fact President Eisenhower appointed three justices in that manner.

I would be very surprised if that happens because the Senate recess ends on Feb. 22. However, if McConnell and Cruz and the rest of the far right keep hammering at him, he may feel he has no other recourse.

Personally, my anger speaks at the moment and says Obama should make a recess appointment, naming the youngest, most liberal judge he can find.

That would certainly heat up the campaign and serve a little payback on the political thugs who are trying to hold the Constitution and the GOP’s strange form of democracy hostage for their own benefit.

But, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

The right thing is simply for Obama to do his job and name a replacement for Scalia.

Then, the Senate needs to do its job and properly vet the candidate without prejudice or rancor.

Don’t hold your breath.

The Republican puppets in the Senate will more than likely fall into lockstep with McConnell and party leaders, drawing this out to become one of the ugliest fights in political history.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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14 Comments

  • Ron February 16, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Hey Ed, did you say the same in 2007 when Chuck Shuemer called for no confirmation of nominees then? Why the intentional omission of such fact? Maybe because it doesn’t fit your liberal narrative?
    What you say about that?

  • BIG GUY February 16, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Note to Obama and the Democrats: stop disrespecting the presidency by using every conceivable means to circumvent laws passed by Congress and enact your own agenda by regulatory abuse and unconstitutional executive orders.

    And in case you’ve forgotten, contrary to Ed’s words above, the president doesn’t appoint Supreme Court justices. He nominates them. The Senate has a Constitutional responsibility to advise and consent. Democrats lost the Senate. To quote Ed, “You lost it. Deal with it.”

  • EdKociela February 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Chuck Schumer did not say that the president should wait until after the election to name a nominee. Here is a link to something he issued just recently on the issue: https://medium.com/@SenSchumer/republicans-apples-to-oranges-comparison-on-supreme-court-nominees-83c0949fee02#.g5zjh5tcs

    • BIG GUY February 16, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Ed, no matter what Senator Schumer says now, here’s what he said to a progressive legal society in July 2007 as reported in Politico at the time:

      “‘We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,’ Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. ‘The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice [John Paul] Stevens replaced by another [Chief Justice John] Roberts, or Justice [ Ruth Bader] Ginsburg by another [ Samuel] Alito.’” Mr. Schumer went on to say that he would recommend to his Senate colleagues “that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.”

      Now that the shoe is on the other foot, like any good politician, Schumer will backtrack if he can get away with it. But he put his foot squarely in his mouth in 2007 and it doesn’t taste good in 2016. Democrats lost the Senate. Deal with it.

      • Accountable February 16, 2016 at 4:06 pm

        Good for you Big Guy — call it like it is. Honesty is an alien concept to liberals.

    • BIG GUY February 16, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Ed, I thought you might enjoy an excerpt from the New York Times’ editorial on Reagan’s 1987 nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court:

      “The President’s supporters insist vehemently that, having won the 1984 election, he has every right to try to change the Court’s direction. Yes, but the Democrats won the 1986 election, regaining control of the Senate, and they have every right to resist.”

      I wonder what the Times is saying now? Hypocrisy reigns on both sides of the aisle as well as at the Times. Good luck with Obama’s court nomination. He’ll make one so as to inflame the election-year political wars, just as he proposed an unconstitutional executive order changing the country’s immigration laws. He knew it was unconstitutional but the political opportunity with Hispanic voters was too good to pass up.

      Democrats lost the Senate in 2014. Both you and the Times will have to deal with it.

  • Brian February 16, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Chuck Schumer in 2007: “We should NOT confirm ANY Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances” (with “extraordinary circumstances” being defined solely by Schumer, I’m sure). That was with 19 MONTHS left in Bush’s term! The ends justify the means, but only for them.

    • EdKociela February 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      You must place that quote in proper context. Schumer was not saying to hold off on appointments until after Bush left office. He was, however, angry, as were other senators and justices, because of the way the court overturned legal precedents, led by Bush nominees John Roberts and Samuel A. Alito who, when interviewed during Senate confirmation hearings, said they would respect legal precedents. “There is no doubt that we were hoodwinked,” Schumer said.

      Here is more from Schumer’s speech: “We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,” Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. “The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.”

      Schumer added that there were four lessons to be learned from Alito and Roberts: Confirmation hearings are meaningless, a nominee’s record should be weighed more heavily than rhetoric, “ideology matters” and “take the president at his word.”

      His concerns were echoed by Justice Stephen Breyer: “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much,” Breyer said, reading his dissent from the bench in June to a 5-4 ruling that overturned school desegregation policies in two cities. Breyer had had previously voiced concerns that conservative justices were violating stare decisis (which means to stand by things decided), the legal doctrine that, for the sake of stability, courts should generally leave precedents undisturbed.

      He was expressing concern over how Roberts and Alito did not hold up to their word and cautioned the Senate about any possible future Bush nominations. He did not suggest that any SCOTUS appointment be postponed until Bush left office. While Schumer’s comments can certainly be viewed as reactionary, political in nature, and brash, they did not come at a time when there was an opening on the bench and it was critical to replace a justice.

      Ideally, SCOTUS should be apolitical, but we all know that is not and never will be the case so the best we can hope for is balance, which the present court lacks with its conservative tilt.

      Truth be known, I am also disgusted by some of the incredibly insensitive comments and opinions I expressed by certain factions of the left as the news of Scalia’s death circulated.

      I take no pleasure in learning of the passing of another human being, regardless of political, religious or any other philosophical differences we may have. While I totally disagreed with just about every vote by Justice Scalia, he seems to have been an interestingly complex man who had interests and opinions beyond the bench and an appreciation of some of the finer aspects of life with an appreciation for good art, good music and sharp wit.

      • BIG GUY February 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm

        Ed, you carefully left out the telling part of Schumer’s comments quoted in my reply above: “that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.”

        Democrats lost the Senate. Deal with it.

  • Chris February 16, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Anthony McLeod Kennedy is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on November 11, 1987, and took the oath of office on February 18, 1988. So can someone tell me how 1987 was an election year?

  • 42214 February 16, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I have great respect for the office. I just don’t respect the guy in office right now.

    • .... February 17, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Hang in there. his rental agreement is almost up !

  • Ron February 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Schumer and Ed can’t have it both ways.

    Democrats lost the Senate AND the House. Get over it.

  • eddantes56 February 17, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    You don’t mean making a recess appointment like back in 2012 when Obama appointed four NLRB board members while the Senate was “in recess”? Oops!. Scotus ruled in 2014 that Obama overstepped his authority and in fact the Senate was not in recess. I doubt even the rino McConnell will allow the Senate to go into recess in the next 11 months.

    BTW, hard to claim the submissive Repubs are disrepecting the Presidency when in fact Obama has disprected the United States by claiming he will “fundamentally transform” it……….Obama has used the IRS to target U.S. Citizens he disagrees with……..Obama has fueled racial hatred by taking sides in the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases before the facts were in…….Obama called second amendment adherents/God worshipers/anti-illegal alien citizens “bitter clingers……..”

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