According to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the future of the republic teeters in the balance. Unless the United States Senate bows to the will of President Barack Obama and approves his replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, everything we hold dear will be lost.
A refusal to get with the program, Warren insists, “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.”
Might this wholly fanciful constitutional exegesis have something to do with a desire to replace Scalia, a giant of originalism, with another progressive rubber stamp? Cut to Sen. Chuck Schumer, a giant of clever partisan manipulations. Back in 2007, the New York Democrat all but pledged his life and sacred honor to blocking any further George W. Bush appointments to the Supreme Court — and somehow democracy survived.
The Congressional Research Service looked at rejected Supreme Court nominees a few years ago and concluded, “Opposition to the nominating President played a role in at least 16 of the 36 nominations that were not confirmed. Many of the 16 were put forward by a President in the last year of his presidency — seven occurred after a successor President had been elected, but before the transfer of power to the new administration.” (In the 19th century, there was a much longer gap between the presidential election and the new president taking office.)
No doubt, Republicans will take heat for simply saying “no” to another Obama appointee to the Court. But there will be none of the faux drama of a government shutdown, when the national parks are shackled and the media acts as if America’s national life is on the verge of collapse. The country will be able to survive some 4–4 Supreme Court decisions, which affirm the lower-court decision.This is a chance for the Senate, in behalf of the prerogatives of Congress, to show some institutional self-respect. It owes President Obama no deference or consideration. He has trampled on the legislative power at every opportunity, including attempting to deem the Senate in recess on his own say-so (he lost the resulting Supreme Court case 9–0). His unconstitutional immigration and clean-power directives both have been held in abeyance by the courts.
If President Obama wanted a collegial relationship with the Republican Senate, he should have thought of that long ago, and if didn’t want to lose the Senate, he should have moderated his stances. Now, he will pronounce himself shocked and saddened that Congress doesn’t want to hold his coat while he remakes the high court. The Senate should hold firm, and let Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues rend their garments and gnash their teeth.
—Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: [email protected]. © 2016 King Features Syndicate