There is absolutely no reason for the Senate not to have hearings on Merrick Garland, who President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court Wednesday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, just last week essentially dared Obama to nominate Garland, saying the president “could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” under the assumption Obama was going to nominate an unconfirmable liberal rather than a well-respected jurist with bipartisan support. Yet, on Wednesday, Hatch said Garland’s nomination doesn’t change the circumstances as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised not to hold hearings immediately following Wednesday’s nomination.
That reaction is extremely disappointing.
All the posturing in the world about giving the American people a voice doesn’t make the situation right. A president is elected to four-year terms, not three. The American people had a voice when they elected Barack Obama in 2012, and the last time we checked, his term is not yet over. This move sets a terrible precedent. One we can be sure Democrats will try to follow in the future, to the detriment of the country.
Democrats certainly have been down this road before with Vice President Joe Biden, then a senator and chair of the Judiciary Committee, saying there is a different standard for Supreme Court openings “in the full throes of an election year.” Despite current spin by the administration about what he really meant and the context of his statement, Biden was wrong then, just as Republicans are wrong now.
If the Senate is concerned about the nominee put forward, by all means they do not have to confirm if it can be demonstrated that the person is unfit for the highest court in the nation. But to not even have hearings to make that determination, to make the decision based solely on the fact that Obama has nine months left in office instead of 14 months is wrong.
And it is a sign of our toxic politics and inability to accomplish anything that the Senate is pledging not to have hearings or an up or down vote on Garland — especially because Garland seems, by all accounts, perfectly qualified for the court and a nominee most Republicans could see themselves supporting. While this Congress is certainly not known for its ability to accomplish anything, no one is saying no new laws should be passed because some senators and representatives might be in their last year in office.
Perhaps in vetting Garland, information will come out marking him unfit for the Supreme Court. But one way or another, Garland deserves to be considered on his own merits.