It’s Friday, May 20 and 65 days since President Obama named Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacant Supreme Court seat. But, instead of considering the most qualified nominee ever for the job, many Senate Republicans are still opting to put politics over constitutional duty, at the detriment of Millennials across the country. And while the Supreme Court may seem removed from the day to day life of the average young person, the decisions it makes—or doesn’t make—have ripple effects that could last a lifetime.
That’s why young leaders from nine key states across the country flew to DC on Thursday to tell the Senate to do its job and hold a hearing and a vote for Merrick Garland. At a press conference with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), along with Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), youth advocates and elected officials alike called for an end to the obstructionism.
“To argue against filling the vacancy on our Supreme Court because it’s an election year is to lay the foundation for a political crisis the likes of which this country has not seen since Watergate and that could disillusion an entire generation of Americans” said Zach Wahls, a 24-year old LGBTQ activist from Iowa. “I know that Senator Grassley doesn’t see it this way, and that his top concern is preventing the possibility of a progressive majority on the Court. But his position is undermining the legitimacy of our nation’s highest court at the precise moment its integrity is most important to maintain.”
Nearly half of Millennials believe politics have become “too partisan,” and new polling from the Center for American Progress shows that voters believe Republican efforts to block a nomination are just that. But the judiciary branch of our democracy, and indeed the Supreme Court itself, has always been an area that young people could trust was removed from the partisan biases that have led to gridlock in the halls of Congress.
CREDIT: Lauren Santa Cruz.
On Thursday, Senator Booker spoke of the urgent need to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and how young people have taken the lead in demanding change.
“The Supreme Court has done its job. The President has done his job. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs,” he said. “That’s the wonderful thing about young activists—they understand that they can’t wait patiently for change. They can’t wait until maybe one day when they become Congressmen, then they’ll have change. We can’t wait.”
The group of young leaders also met with Senate offices, including that of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, to share the impact that the courts have had on them, and why the vacancy is a critical and urgent issue.
Indeed, it would be hard to find somebody who doesn’t recall the moment they found out that the Supreme Court had effectively made marriage equality the law of the land in the Obergefell v Hodges case, removing any state-by-state ambiguity and giving millions a final decision, once and for all. From marriage equality to decisions on the Affordable Care Act and immigration, the courts likewise established clear rule of law, not open to alternate interpretations.
On the flip side, several cases argued in front of this eight-seat Supreme Court have provided no such clarity. On Friday, the Court split 4-4 on a decision regarding a stay of execution, literally leaving a life-or-death decision for individuals sitting on death row hanging in the balance of obstructionist Senators. On Monday, it punted a decision on access to contraception back down to the lower courts, effectively admitting that without a ninth justice, the Supreme Court is unable to fulfill its role.
Leaving the Court at less than full strength will continue to force these kinds of decisions and ultimately hurt average Americans. On Thursday, the message from the day of action was clear: it’s time for Senate Republicans to do their jobs and hold a hearing and a vote on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.