Robert Reich: The GOP is shirking its constitutional responsibility

The former secretary of labor sounds off on the Senate's refusal to even give Obama's SCOTUS appointee a hearing


Robert Reich
March 19, 2016 7:00PM (UTC)

The Constitution of the United States is clear: Article II Section 2 says the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint … judges to the Supreme Court.”

It doesn’t say the President can’t appoint in the final year of his term of office. In fact, a third of all U.S. presidents have appointed a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Yet many Republicans argue that no appointment can be made in the election year.

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And the Constitution doesn’t give the Senate leader the right to delay and obstruct the rest of the Senate fro voting on a President’s nominee. Yet this is what the current Republican leadership argues.

In refusing to vote or even hold a hearing on the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court, the GOP is abdicating its constitutional responsibility. It’s not doing its job.

Senate Republicans are trying to justify their refusal by referring to a comment Joe Biden made when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992, urging then-President Bush to hold off on nominating a Supreme Court justice until after the election. But Biden was speaking hypothetically – there was no nominee before the Senate at that time – and he concluded by saying that if the President were to nominate someone he was sure the Senate and the President could come to an agreement.

This fight has huge implications. A new Supreme Court justice might be able to reverse “Citizens United” and remove the poison of big money from our democracy. It might reverse “Shelby v. Holder,” and resurrect the Voting Rights Act.

And think of the cases coming up – on retaining a woman’s right to choose, on the rights of teachers and other public employees to unionize, on the President’s authority to fight climate change, and the rights of countless Americans with little or no power in a system where more and more power is going to the top. That’s the traditional role of the Supreme Court – to protect the powerless from the powerful.

Which is exactly why the Republicans don’t want to fulfill their constitutional responsibility and allow a vote on the President’s nominee.

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So what can you do? There’s only one response – the same response you made when Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t get their way over the debt ceiling: You let them know they’ll be held accountable.

Public pressure is the only way to get GOP senators to release their choke hold on the Supreme Court. Public pressure is up to you. Call your senators now, and tell them you want them to do their job.


Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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Constitution Gop Robertreich.org Shelby V. Holder Voting Rights Act

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