The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Judge Garland is widely respected and previously received bipartisan support. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley among others has chosen not to do their job and give Judge Garland a hearing and a vote.
Now nearly nine months later there is still no hearing, still no vote, and still no replacement for the vacancy on the high court. The failure of Senate Republicans to do their job is placing undue stress on the Supreme Court and their ability to do their job, ultimately in service to the country and its citizens, who elected President Obama twice entrusting him with the responsibility to nominate justices should a vacancy occur.
The denial of a hearing and a vote on President Obama’s nominee because it is an election year is no excuse. It is blatant obstructionism. And sadly, it has been par for the course throughout Obama’s presidency.
There are three branches of government and Congressional Republicans have managed to impede the work of all of them. This is supposedly in the interest of working for the people. However, it’s only the corporate people whose interests are really in mind.
In the weeks since the election, the party and people that have worked tirelessly to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama, fought his every major policy position, wasted endless votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and failed their constitutional duty to give Judge Garland a hearing and vote, are calling for unity under President-elect Donald Trump.
Not only are they calling for unity, they are demanding we the people “give him a chance,” despite his lifetime record of chances to show the moral character desirable in the leader of the free world. It is not lost on anyone with a memory that this is something that President Barack Obama was never given. More than ironic this is duplicitous.
Justice has not only been denied to a worthy Supreme Court nominee and the work of the high court. It continues to be denied to the American people.
Congressional Republicans who embraced demands for the president to show his birth certificate and have now failed to require their own presidential nominee (now elect) to show is tax returns, have been spectacularly negligent in addressing wage inequality and raising the stagnant poverty-entrapping minimum wage to one that makes affording the basics of life possible.
Making America safe is supposed to be a high priority for the Grand Old Party, however, not at the cost of upsetting the NRA and the gun lobby. Despite the widespread support for common sense gun control legislation including among NRA members, little is being done by Congress to address the epidemic of gun violence, except perhaps to make it possible for more people to have more guns in more places like airports and daycare centers, as the Ohio GOP is pushing. Evidence shows more guns in more places makes us all less safe. But let’s not mess with our Second Amendment rights. By the way, has anyone taken notice of the shredding of the First Amendment and its protections by the incoming Trump administration? Well the free press, the right to speak and assemble, and practice one’s faith must not be on the same level as owning a firearm, right?
All this will matter little, however, if the planet becomes uninhabitable. The failure to take climate science seriously among Republicans in framing policy could be a disaster that cannot be undone. The praise of this anti-intellectual bias is quite concerning since these are the people who are determining the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. But the lack of outrage over lead-poisoned water and decrepit pipes in Flint, Michigan, tells the world how much they care.
Nevertheless, as pressing as these issues are, the country is now faced with addressing voter suppression and important election recounts in multiple states to assure the integrity of our election system. I fear to know how many people, especially minorities, were denied justice on election day because they were not able to cast their vote and have it counted correctly.
There is a long way to go in the fight for justice. Having Judge Garland on the Supreme Court could have helped in this fight now and in the years to come.
Who knows who the nominee for the Supreme Court will be from the President-elect, who is filling his cabinet and key leadership positions with white supremacists, wall street insiders, and those who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. One thing seems to be clear, it is not going to be someone near as qualified or respected as Judge Merrick Garland.