GOP abducting Constitution

Published 10:05 am Friday, February 26, 2016

The U.S. Constitution directs the president to nominate Supreme Court candidates.

The same U.S. Constitution directs the Senate to confirm or deny the nomination of a candidate to the Supreme Court.

President Obama has promised to fulfill his Constitutional duty to nominate a candidate.

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The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised not to fulfill his responsibility to the Constitution.

McConnell this week promised that the Senate would refuse to hold confirmation hearings for any candidate the president may nominate, regardless of the qualifications of the candidate.

This is unprecedented in our history and is, according to some legal scholars, including University of Chicago law professor Geoff Stone, a clear violation of the Constitution by the Senate majority.

According to the Senate historian, never in our history has the Senate refused to hold the Constitutionally required confirmation hearings. Never.

Oddly, the Republican-led Senate and the Republican Party have often spoken of their reverence for the Constitution of their angst that, in their view, President Obama has not followed the Constitution.

As it turns out Republicans only like the Constitution when it favors their political needs. When the Supreme Court ruled recently that gay marriage was Constitutionally protected, several Republicans decided that the court should not be an equal branch of government after all. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee noted that Supreme Court decisions need not be seen as final law. So much for Constitutional reverence.

And Republicans have expressed so much reverence for the Constitution that some among them have demanded a Constitutional convention to fix the beloved Constitution to better fit their political positions. The reverence of it all.

But why would anyone be surprised that this Republican Congress would like to do nothing? After all, recent Republican Congresses have excelled at doing nothing. The 113th Congress passed the fewest bills into law for any Congress in the last 20 plus years.

The Republican Congress has failed to such a degree that their own voters have turned against them and seek outsiders for the Republican presidential nomination.

A recent Gallup poll found the Republican Congress was supported by 17 percent of voters polled, the lowest support for any Congress in Gallup’s polling history. So why would this Congress, this Senate, choose now to suddenly act responsibly?

Of course, the point of refusing to consider any nominee is the hope the Republicans have that they will win the presidency in 2016, thus allowing them to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who is more Republican than any Obama nominee.

It is, after all, not about the Constitution, but about politics.

Even so, the politics of this refusal seem illogical. Polling indicates that independent voters want any Obama nominee to be submitted to Senate hearings and be granted rejection or approval.

Further, this political season has 24 Republican Senate seats up for election and only 10 democratic seats. This means there is some significant possibility Republicans will lose their Senate majority, and with it the power to stall any nominee for the next few years.

And, unless the Republican presidential nominee finds some new way to attract minority voters, demographics make a Republican presidential victory an uphill battle at best in 2016.

Majority Leader McConnell can refuse to comply with the Constitution, and can ignore public opinion, and can diminish the effectiveness of the Court by leaving vacate an important seat.

Because, in the end, McConnell doesn’t care about those issues as much as he cares about Republican politics.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.