The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday has rapidly caused a frenzy in the upper echelons of American government. Everyone from congressional staffers to President Obama is stating their opinion on the two burning questions that now await the executive and legislative branches: who will replace Scalia, and when? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his belief that the nomination process should wait until after the election, but not everyone agrees. Sen. Elizabeth Warren weighed in on Scalia's replacement via social media on Sunday morning, affirming her commitment to an expedient confirmation process.
The sudden death of Justice Scalia creates an immediate vacancy on the most important court in the United States. Senator McConnell is right that Americans should have a voice in selecting the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.
Not only is Warren's statement amazingly sassy, it's absolutely accurate. President Obama may be nearing the end of his term, but he was fairly elected by the people of the United States to perform all the responsibilities assigned to the president, including this one. Obama's obligations as president don't stop just because it's an election year, and he would be derelict in his duties if he didn't even try to push a nominee through Congress.
Warren's message read in full:
The sudden death of Justice Scalia creates an immediate vacancy on the most important court in the United States.
Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.
Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can't find a clause that says "...except when there's a year left in the term of a Democratic President."
Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that — empty talk.
McConnell's position is flawed for two critical reasons. First, he has no guarantee about any outcome in the elections come November. The Senate majority leader has no more guarantee that a conservative will win the White House than I do that Brie Larson will win this year's Best Actress Oscar. Betting on the presidential election, especially this hotly contested one, is far from safe. Also, a third of the Senate is up for reelection in 2016, include 24 Republican senators. Democrats only need to win five seats to take back control of the Senate, which isn't at all out of the question. So McConnell is depending on two separate scenarios both happening in order for him to push through the GOP's ideal SCOTUS candidate, and the combination of those odds just doesn't seem good.
Second, McConnell's assertion that the nomination process be halted until the election is unfair to the American people. Stalling a vital process in the continuity of the American government in the hopes that your party prevails over the other is downright irresponsible as a legislator. The middle of an especially important court term isn't a great time to fight political battles — the American people deserve a full Supreme Court bench and party leaders who put the good of the country above their own ideologies.
Warren's message to McConnell and the nation is strong reminder of the inefficacy of extreme partisanship — waiting a whole year to nominate a new Supreme Court justice is an all-around bad plan. However, McConnell and the Republicans don't seem like they will waver. Since the parties agree on next to nothing, it might be quite some time before the next justice is sworn in.