President Obama Blasts Senate Republicans for Playing ‘Political Football’ with Democracy

President Obama penned an eloquent plea for Senate Republicans to restore a measure of order and democracy by allowing a vote on his SCOTUS nominee, Justice Merrick Garland.

Four months after he nominated Justice Garland, the President wrote an impassioned plea about why we must not let the highest court in the land become “political football”, in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal (subscription link).

President Obama wrote that the Senate Republicans’ refusal to even vote on the nominee — a highly respected, unbiased judge from all accounts — is an “unprecedented escalation of the stakes” that threatens the very process by which we nominate judges.”

Noting “For more than 40 years, there has been an average of just over two months between a president’s nominating someone to the Supreme Court and that person’s receiving a hearing in Congress”, the President pointed to an additional twenty-nine judicial emergencies declared by lower courts across the country in his plea for Senate Republicans to drop the partisan attack on the democratic process.

This is a problem not just for Obama and for the country’s potential loss of a great nominee for the Court, but it threatens the rule of law and, no hyperbole, democracy itself:

The partisan decision of Senate Republicans to deny a hearing to a judge who has served his country with honor and dignity is not just an insult to a good man—it is an unprecedented escalation of the stakes. It threatens the very process by which we nominate judges, regardless of who our next president is. And it should concern every American who cares about the rule of law and upholding the institutions that make our democracy work.

The President explained why it threatens democracy – writing that a vote on the nominee is the senators’ job, “Historically, when a president nominates a Supreme Court justice—regardless of when in the presidential term this occurs—the Senate is obligated to act. Senators are free to vote their conscience. But they vote. That’s their job.”

And, “Second, treating the Supreme Court like a political football makes the American people more cynical about democracy.”

“This is much more serious than your typical case of Washington dysfunction,” President Obama warned. “And if we allow it to continue, the consequences of congressional inaction could weaken our most important institutions, erode public trust and undermine our democracy.”

As a fix, the President pushed for Republicans to agree to vote on Garland when they return from their extended recess, and also commit “to give every future qualified Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote within an established time frame.”

Obama noted that George W. Bush had suggested this as well, and such an agreement “would prevent the confirmation process from breaking down beyond repair, and help restore good faith between the two parties.”

President Obama cares deeply about process and democracy, so it’s not surprising that he is pushing for a fix to the partisan gridlock Republicans are using to obstruct him at every turn.

It’s not just about his Presidency, but about the process and even more so, the very people who are being hurt by this breakdown in democracy. What Senate Republicans have deliberately chosen to do is spit in the face of democracy, deny President Obama the trust the people put in him by re-electing him in a landslide, in order that they can wait out an election year and thus let Donald Trump appoint the next Supreme Court.

I think we all know that should Donald Trump make it to the White House, he won’t be appointing anyone as brilliant, nonpartisan, universally respected and fair as Justice Garland. What a shame for the people of this country.

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