President Obama nominates Supreme Court justice, Arkansas delegation responds

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 415 views 

President Barack Obama on Wednesday (March 16) nominated Merrick Garland, who serves as the chief Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, during a ceremony at the White House.

Arkansas’ two U.S. Senators are sticking to the party line, saying they support the policy of GOP leadership in the Senate to not consider the nomination of U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday (March 16) nominated Garland, who serves as the chief Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, during a ceremony at the White House.

“Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice – particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time. The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law. They safeguard our rights. They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men. They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time,” Obama said in a statement.

Continuing, Obama noted: “So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly. It’s a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations. That’s why, over the past several weeks, I’ve done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process. I’ve sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress. We’ve reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.”

Obama also called on Republicans to move on the nomination.

“I have fulfilled my constitutional duty. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs. Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term. Neither should a senator,” Obama said.

Garland said he would be “faithful” to the Constitution, which was clearly a statement directed at conservative members of the Senate who praised Scalia’s “originalist” views on interpreting Constitutional law.

“Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others. People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law. For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress. He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law – not make it,” Garland said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said the nomination of a Scalia replacement will happen with the next president.

“The President has a Constitutional right to nominate a candidate to fill this vacancy, but the Senate has made it clear that we do not intend move forward on it. The Constitution clearly defines the roles of each branch and the President’s ends with selecting a candidate for the vacancy,” Boozman said. “For Senator Reid and his caucus to claim the Senate must vote on this nominee is not only a display of Constitutional ignorance, but highly hypocritical given the words and actions of Senate Democrats in previous election years and the precedent followed for decades in terms of considering Supreme Court vacancies during lame duck presidencies. Our country is very split and we are in the midst of a highly contested presidential election. My colleagues and I are committed to giving the American people a voice in the direction the court will take for generations to come.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said it is the Senate’s imperative to wait.

“In a few short months, we will have a new President and new Senators who can consider the next Justice with the full faith of the people. Why would we cut off the national debate on the next Justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the populace? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court? There is no reason to do so. I respect President Obama’s right to nominate someone to the Supreme Court. But the stakes are high and we cannot rush this decision. This nomination should not be considered by the Senate at this time,” Cotton said.

In the past several weeks, Republicans have argued that Vice President Joe Biden, then a U.S. Senator from Delaware and then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made an effective argument in 1992 on waiting until an election year is over before dealing with nominations.

“Politics has played far too large a role in the Reagan-Bush nominations to date. One can only imagine that role becoming overarching if a choice were made this year, assuming that a justice was announced tomorrow that he or she was stepping down,” Biden said in June 1992. “A process that is already in doubt in the minds of many will become distrusted by all. Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, the nominee or to the Senate itself.”

According to the website, and the U.S. Senate website, there have been several Supreme Court vacancies during a presidential election year since 1900. Under the Constitution, the President has the power to nominate a justice while the Senate has the exclusive right to advise and consent on the nomination.

“The historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election. In that period, there were several nominations and confirmations of Justices during presidential election years,” the article noted.

The article cited at least six different instances of nominations being done in an election year. However, two withdrew while another nomination was filibustered.
They, according to the article, include:
• Mahlon Pitney, nominated by President William Howard Taft on March 13, 1912 and confirmed 50-26 on March 18, 1912.

• Louis Brandeis, nominated by President Woodrow Wilson on Jan. 28, 1916 and confirmed 47-22 on June 1, 1916.

• John Clarke, nominated by Wilson on July 14, 1916 and approved by voice vote on July 24, 1916.

• Benjamin Cardozo, nominated by President Herbert Hoover on Feb. 15, 1932. Cardozo was confirmed by voice vote on February 24, 1932.

• Frank Murphy, nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt on Jan. 4, 1940. Murphy was confirmed on Jan. 16, 1940 by voice vote.

• Anthony Kennedy, nominated by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 30, 1987. Kennedy was confirmed 97-2 on Feb. 3, 1988. However, the debate over the nomination went through most of 1987 after the Senate voted against the nomination of Judge Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg withdrew from consideration, the article noted.

A group of legal scholars provided a letter to President Obama explaining why in their view the nomination of a Supreme Court justice should be considered no matter the timing with an election cycle.

“In fact it is standard practice when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court to have a president, whatever the stage in his term, to nominate a successor and have the Senate consider it. And standard practice (with limited exception) has been for the Senate, after hearings and deliberation, to confirm the president’s choice, regardless of party control, when that choice is deemed acceptable to a Senate majority,” noted a portion of the letter.