President Barack Obama has acted in the spirit of compromise with his choice of Merrick B. Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans will expose themselves as naked obstructionists if they refuse to follow suit and hold hearings.
Garland is a universally respected centrist judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. By selecting him to fill the vacancy created last month by the death of Antonin Scalia, Obama waived the opportunity to nominate a judge who would extend the president’s legacy of liberalism well into the future.
Garland is not only inclined to sometimes veer conservative, especially in law-and-order cases, at age 63 he is older than most Supreme Court nominees. In his case a lifetime appointment would be shorter than that of many of the justices.
Those factors ought to appeal to Senate Republicans. Some of them, including Pat Roberts of Kansas, voted to confirm Garland’s appointment to the appeals court in 1997. The judge has gained bipartisan respect since then.
But Roberts, along with fellow Republicans Jerry Moran of Kansas and Roy Blunt of Missouri, wasted no time on Wednesday in parroting the party line from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“This is not about the nominee, it is about giving the American people and the next president a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice,” Roberts intoned in a statement.
That rationale is as flimsy as a Donald Trump attempt at humility. The American people selected Obama for a four-year term. And the U.S. Constitution clearly assigns the task of nominating Supreme Court justices to the chief executive of the moment.
Scalia’s death has left the nation’s highest court with eight justices who are likely to split four to four on important cases involving abortion, union fees, affirmative action and other controversial issues. A tie vote would mean a lower court’s last ruling would stand and deny a chance for clarity.
Only a Senate majority consumed with self-interest and disdain for the democratic process would prefer that limbo to timely hearings for a highly qualified nominee.
Blunt and other GOP senators in competitive races will have trouble justifying their obstruction to a public that wants to see fair play in Washington. Senators who would rig the confirmation process to try to allow Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, the chance to choose the next Supreme Court justice are out of sync with the nation’s best interests.