On Friday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sat down with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Laura Know and Josh Rogers at a forum presented by NHPR and Concord Young Professionals Network.
During his appearance, Bernie Sanders declared that, as president, he would not nominate a judge to the Supreme Court unless that judge was willing to overturn Citizens United, the case that gave human status to corporations.
“I will not nominate any man or woman to the Supreme Court unless that individual is loud and clear in saying he or she will vote to overturn Citizens’ United and do that as quickly as possible.”
The ruling had sweeping consequences due to the loosening of restrictions against corporate donations during election seasons.
Sanders has consistently vowed to keep big money out of politics, and has refused donations from known sources that would violate his vow not to accept corporate donations. When he discovered Martin Shkreli, the infamous CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who raised the price of Daraprim by 5000 percent, had donated a large sum of money to his campaign, Bernie Sanders took that same amount and donated it to Whitman-Walker Health, a Washington, D.C.-based clinic that treats HIV patients and members of the LGBT community. Daraprim is a well-known drug used in the treatment of toxoplasmosis, which affects AIDS and HIV patients in large numbers.
Some Bernie Sanders supporters are concerned at this statement, however, calling this a one-issue litmus test. Critics claim that Supreme Court nominees may not comment on issues that may hit their court, so for Bernie to claim he’d make sure any nominees would do this is merely a talking point to make his supporters feel good.
On the r/politics sub on Reddit, supporters argue that Citizens United is just one issue on a list of several issues any president has when considering Supreme Court nominees. They argue critics of this “litmus test” are not truly aware of how the nomination process works. But those critical of Bernie Sanders’ assertion reference what he said as proof he would disqualify any nominee based on this one issue alone.
All this being said, when a president goes down the list of possible SCOTUS nominees, does he not make certain issue more important than others? Possibly. Can one issue be a deal breaker? Possibly. But a president often uses a multitude of issues, past ruling history, and general ethical reputation as reference points for the ideal candidate. Bernie Sanders would be no exception.
Is Bernie Sanders arguing a point that goes against the intent of the Constitution?
The original framers of the Constitution argued against allowing too much power into the hands of a few privileged individuals. The Citizens United decision did just that: It handed more power over to those who have the most money to pay legislators to vote in favor of their special interests. It also allowed for the very wealthy (via their corporations) to hand pick their candidates and shower them with money to beat their opponents.
Citizens United originally was a political action committee (PAC) founded in 1988 by Floyd Brown. Funding for the PAC came in large part from the Koch brothers. According to Reclaimed Democracy, the group “promotes corporate interests, socially conservative candidates,” and also limiting a centralized government.
Throughout U.S. history, the President of the United States has been tasked with choosing new justices. but what are the guidelines for choosing one? According to USHistory.org, no rules or guidelines exist in the Constitution for nominating Supreme Court justices despite extensive guidelines for those who wish to serve in the House, the Senate, and the office of the President.
Historically, a president’s nominee is a member of his own party and therefore, has political leanings that most closely resemble his own. Presidents often nominate judges with similar political ideologies to their own. For example, George W. Bush chose John Roberts, a judge well-known for his conservative leanings as Chief Justice.
Bernie Sanders espousing his own requirements for judicial nominees is really nothing new and nothing radical. Citizens United is not the only issue he would use to weigh a nominee’s fitness or qualifications to the court.
During the forum, Bernie Sanders didn’t just talk about Citizens United. He also stressed that any new justices must support women’s reproductive rights. He also discussed common sense gun control legislation in response to recent shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino in which multiple people were killed.
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