Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Leaders Would Be Wise to Act Now

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Leaders Would Be Wise to Act Now

Article excerpt

For Republicans intent on blocking any Barack Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, this will be the year of living dangerously.

There are strong reasons, both pragmatic and idealistic, for Republican senators to act on a replacement for the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the death of conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many of his Republican colleagues over-reacted and vowed to not hold hearings on any nominee proposed by Obama.

Scalia was a widely respected leader of conservative thought, supporting the policy that the origins of the U.S. Constitution must guide all decisions.

IDEALS AT ISSUE

Just as Republicans were unwise to take action that shut down the federal government years ago, they are wrong to go on strike over this nomination process.

They took an oath to follow the Constitution.

The Constitution gives the president a four-year term. Obama still has almost one year left in his term.

The president is assigned the duty to appoint justices to the third branch of the government, the Supreme Court, and the Senate is given the power to advise and consent on the nominee.

Those are the ideals that members of Congress should follow if they really are strict constructionists. To refuse to do their duty is an abdication for the American people.

PRAGMATIC ISSUES

But there are important practical reasons to engage.

In this case, there is every indication that Obama will suggest a nominee who is a sitting judge who has already received overwhelming support from the Senate.

Opposing such a selection would look even more juvenile than it does now.

In addition, it's entirely possible that a nominee proposed with a Republican majority in the Senate will be far more acceptable to the GOP than one after the fall election.

Republicans currently hold a 54-46 advantage in the Senate, but there are six seats up this cycle in states that voted for Obama. That means Republicans could lose control of the Senate next year.

Current Senate rules require 60 votes to override a filibuster over a Supreme Court candidate. That would mean all 46 Democrats and 14 Republicans would have to vote for an override.

Thus, Senate Republicans have the upper hand on confirmation.

If Republican leaders retain their intransigent policy, there is likely to be political fallout, not among their base but among the moderates and independents who will be needed to win the presidency. Democrats already hold an Electoral College advantage in the presidency. That can't be overcome by alienating potential allies.

TIE VOTES MAY HELP LIBERALS

The loss of Scalia turns the Supreme Court math into an advantage for the four liberals on the court.

"Even if the GOP blocks his nominee, the policy outcomes would be very similar to what they'd be if the court had a liberal majority," noted Linda Hirshman in an opinion column in The Washington Post. …

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