David Harsanyi: GOP Has A Duty To Reject Obama’s SCOTUS PickPosted: February 16, 2016
Republicans should follow Sen. Barack Obama’s advice and filibuster the president’s SCOTUS nominee.
David Harsanyi writes: Although nothing in his political history suggests magnanimity, Barack Obama may surprise us by nominating one of those moderate-consensus types who would provide some of that national healing he promised us eight years ago. But he’s certainly under no constitutional obligation to do so. He can nominate whomever he pleases in the wake of the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia. And Republicans have plenty of precedent for rejecting his choice.
I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of Samuel Alito, I’m deeply troubled.
You’ll notice, as well, that precedent only matters sporadically. Democrats were uninterested in historical guidance when they were shoehorning a massive generational reform through Congress without any consensus for the first time in history or filling imaginary recess appointments. When it works out for them they transform into strict traditionalists.
Whatever precedent says, if Republicans truly believe Obama has displayed a contempt for the Constitution, they have a moral obligation to reject his choice—whether it’s someone who argues in favor of book banning or enables abusive power. Because we’re not talking about good-faith disagreements over what the Constitution says anymore, we’re talking about a party that believes enumerated powers stand in their way.
Contemporary liberalism is fundamentally opposed to any precedential restrictions that curb “progress.” Wilsonian progressives were skeptical of the Constitution and separation of powers, and so are modern progressives. Only the former had the decency to be honest. So why do we pretend otherwise?
Just like Wilson, Democrats argue that the Supreme Court is holding back many morally advantageous policies. What they do not do, and haven’t done for years, is offer any limiting principles (other than for few incidental partisan policies they happen to support for reasons have nothing to do with individual liberty). For them, process exists solely to further ethical policy (which they don’t believe could possibly be subjective).
Even Donald Trump, who claims to believe America is limping towards extinction, felt the need during the last debate to claimed he would build consensus when applying trade and immigration policy rather than act unilaterally. There is no such inclination, not even rhetorically, on the Left. Just listen to the Democratic Party debates. Bernie Sanders’ litmus test for a Supreme Court nomination is pretty simple: the candidate must support restrictions on the First Amendment. Most Democrats agree.
Hillary Clinton, whom I don’t remember mentioning the Constitution once in any of her debates, claims that “Republicans in Senate and on campaign trail who are calling for Scalia’s seat to remain vacant dishonor our Constitution.” Harry Reid, who couldn’t are one whit about precedent when he blew up a vital check on majoritanarism and executive power by eliminating filibuster on judicial nominations, said: “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.” And Elizabeth Warren says she “can’t find a clause in the Constitution that says ‘except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic president.’”
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