Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, appoint […] judges of the Supreme Court.”
The meaning of this clause seems pretty clear: when there’s a vacancy in the highest court in the land, it’s the President’s job to nominate a qualified replacement. The Senate’s job is to hold a hearing and either confirm or deny the President’s nominee. It’s pretty simple.
The sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this month shocked the country and all three branches of our federal government. Unfortunately, before people could mourn Justice Scalia’s unexpected passing, his death was quickly politicized. Less than two hours after the news broke to the public, some members of the Senate released a statement saying they would not confirm any nominee President Obama put forth for the vacancy. Regardless of a nominee’s merit, Senate leaders in the majority party remain adamant–they won’t even hold a hearing.
The politicization of the very branch of government which our founding fathers designed to remain apolitical serves as a major frustration and barrier for Millennials. As a generation, we’re already particularly frustrated with the hyper-partisanship and partisan maneuvering we believe to define government. Plainly, we want a government that works. That includes a fully-staffed, fully-functioning Supreme Court.
We’ve already watched Washington’s obstructionism and refusal to compromise shut down the legislative branch—multiple times. Are we really ready to see the same thing happen to our judicial branch, too?
Not only are we particularly attuned to the needless obstructionism in Washington, we’re also the ones most affected by it. A vacancy on the most powerful court in the land can have severe—and lasting—repercussions for us. The decisions, or lack thereof, made by the Court will affect our lives for years and years to come.
We’ve seen just how important the Supreme Court can be. From striking down racist segregation laws in Brown v. BOE to upholding the right against self-incrimination in Miranda v. Arizona, the court has time and time again shown the necessity of an independent judiciary.
It’s clear that the Supreme Court serves as an essential branch of a functioning federal government. Stalling a hearing and confirmation for purely political purposes is a disservice not only to our generation but to all Americans. Current polling, including a recent poll from Fox News, shows that a majority of Americans believe the President has the responsibility to nominate a candidate for the high court. Fox’s poll indicated that 62 percent of the American people believe “it’s still the responsibility of current leaders, President Obama, and the Senate to take action to fill the vacancy now” regardless of whether or not it’s an election year.
By refusing to hold so much as a hearing, these gridlocking Senators are showing what they believe in: chaos over constitutional duty, obstructionism over order, and politics over precedent.
Obstructing Senators justify their actions by arguing that the American people should have a voice in the nomination. But the American people already have a constitutionally-mandated voice carved out for them—in the selection of the President every four years, who in turn names nominees. And the American people have spoken again—this time, through polling—telling Senators, essentially: do your jobs.