Editorial: GOP shouldn't rule out Senate vote on Obama's nominee to replace Scalia
Many Republican senators bolted out of the blocks way too fast on whether the Senate should hold hearings on a U.S. Supreme Court nominee by President Obama in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death.
Yes, they should hold hearings — unless the president appears to be making a purely political statement with his appointment.
Instead, many senators ruled out even considering a nominee this close to an election.
Thankfully, a few GOP senators seem to be rethinking the idea that a Senate vote on a Supreme Court nominee is inconceivable this year. "I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions," Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday in a slight shift from his previous stance. "In other words, take it a step at a time."
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., this week also urged a more deliberative approach. "I think we fall into the trap, if we just simply say sight unseen, we fall into the trap of being obstructionists," Tillis said.
That's not to say Republicans are obliged to support any candidate the president puts forward, even if that person is highly qualified. And let's face it: There is no chance whatever that Republicans are going to help Democrats confirm an identifiably liberal jurist. Everyone, including the president, knows it.
In fact, the president understands it better than most.
After all, when Obama was a senator he expressed support for a filibuster against Samuel Alito when he was up for confirmation because the Illinois senator considered Alito "somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values." When reminded of those words this week, the president admitted that "how judicial nominations have evolved over time is not historically the fault of any single party. This has become just one more extension of politics."
But what if Obama chooses someone who at least appears to have a moderate record and who might not swing the court wildly to the left? Wouldn't senators want to examine that nominee more closely — especially if the hearings occurred later this spring and Donald Trump still appeared a strong favorite to win the Republican nomination?
Who do you suppose Trump would appoint if given the chance?
Granted, there is no science to predicting how a Supreme Court nominee will rule once on the bench, and Republicans will probably end up blocking Obama's nominee no matter who that person is. That's their right. But there is an important difference between saying, "I oppose so-and-so for the following reasons," and, "I don't think the president should nominate anyone at all."
Of course he should nominate someone. And if Republicans end up opposing the nominee, they should forthrightly tell Americans why that is the case.
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