Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High Court Nominee Deserves a Hearing | Senate Republicans Need to Put Politics Aside

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High Court Nominee Deserves a Hearing | Senate Republicans Need to Put Politics Aside

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

With his choice of a moderate nominee to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, President Obama gave Republican senators a golden opportunity to act in solidarity with the American people -- a majority of whom want Washington to get over itself and move forward with filling the vacancy on the bench.

Obama nominated Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A former prosecutor with the Justice Department, Garland was appointed to the appeals court by President Clinton in the 1990s, enduring a lengthy Senate approval process.

He is so well qualified that no less an authority than GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch commended him. Even so, today's Republican leadership is locked in obstruction mode.

A nominee can't join the high court without the consent of the Senate, which is under Republican control. Top senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, continue to insist that the nomination should be left up to the next president -- not Obama.

That stance is an insult to Obama and to voters, a majority of whom re-elected him in 2012 to a four-year -- not a three-year -- term.

Any Supreme Court nomination is significant, but filling the vacancy left by the unexpected death last month of pivotal Justice Antonin Scalia is especially consequential.

The outcome could tip the ideological balance of the court, where several important cases are pending. The subjects range from abortion and voting rights to environmental and economic issues.

Without Scalia -- a largely right-wing jurist -- the high court is "tied": four justices usually bend conservative, and four bend liberal. A tie-breaker is needed, and Garland's centrist qualities - - Obama described him as "thoughtful and fair-minded" -- could make him a very good one.

Obama, in his announcement Wednesday, said, "I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up- or-down vote. …

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