Since President Obama announced his SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, the nation — particularly politicians and pundits — has debated whether Congress has a duty to evaluate the candidate and vote to confirm or reject him as a supreme court justice. This week, both the president and the Senate Republicans discussed the matter in their weekly addresses, taking predictable positions. However, at least one Republican Senator is speaking out and calling for a vote — saying his colleagues need to “man up.”
In his weekly address to the nation, President Obama called nomination of SCOTUS justices “one of the most consequential responsibilities” of a president. Speaking of Merrick Garland, he described the nominee as a man who had earned bipartisan respect.
Calling for the Senate to vote, Obama warned that failing to do so would leave a gap in the court that could prevent elected officials at all levels from fulfilling their constitutional obligations to liberty and justice.
The full address is below.
The Senate Republicans also addressed Garland’s nomination in their weekly address, given by North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. Tillis declared that the Senate’s duty is, in fact, to “withhold consideration of the nomination altogether so the American people can weigh in.”
He praised bipartisan efforts of government, and assured that the refusal to vote on Garland has nothing to do with the nominee himself, but is intended to send a “clear message” that the Senate wants to allow the American people to have a voice in the choice of SCOTUS representation.
Willis elaborated on his position.
“Will [the President and Democratic leaders] join [Senate Republicans] in doing our jobs on behalf of the American people or will they instead seek to further divide our nation by turning the Supreme Court process into a blatantly partisan back-and-forth?”
His full address is below.
— Senate Republicans (@Senate_GOPs) March 19, 2016
Not all Senate Republicans agree with the decision to defer a vote, however. According to the Washington Post, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk has spoken out against the decision, saying that the Senate should vote on whether to confirm Merrick Garland to a SCOTUS seat. Of his colleagues, he said it it time to “just man up and cast a vote.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell maintains that he will not consider opening a vote on an Obama nominee for SCOTUS.
Like Senator Tillis in his weekly address, McConnell maintains that the way for the American people to have a voice in the SCOTUS nomination is by waiting for the newly-elected president to select a nominee, leaving the seat empty until 2017.
Other Senators are also weighing in.
Ron Wyden, Democratic Senator from Oregon tweeted his feelings.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 18, 2016
John Cornyn, Texas Senator and Majority Whip did the same.
— Senate Republicans (@Senate_GOPs) March 17, 2016
Senate Republicans are citing what they call the “Biden Rule” — referring to a statement by Joe Biden in 1992, calling for President George H.W. Bush to delay offering a SCOTUS nominee until after the election, in the hypothetical case that a current SCOTUS justice resigned, and for the Senate to refuse to vote on a nominee if offered.
Biden’s response to this has changed.
— Vice President Biden (@VP) March 16, 2016
According to NPR, other SCOTUS nominees have been confirmed in election years. However, the current open seat will have to remain cold for a long time to break any records: the longest time to confirm a SCOTUS nominee was 125 days, but a seat remained vacant for 391 days from 1969 to 1970, and a seat was vacant for over two years in the 1840s, when eight nominees offered by James Polk were rejected or withdrawn.
SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland is introduced in the video below.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]