Respect for history, Constitution must be at heart of Supreme Court debate
By Congressman Steve Scalise, 4/8/16
The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a huge loss for the court and for America.
Not only did Scalia represent perhaps the greatest embodiment of conservative jurisprudence in our nation’s history, he was a man of exceptional intelligence, eloquence, accomplishment, faith and integrity. He also was a friend and personal hero to me, as well as to millions of others — even to many who strongly disagreed with his philosophy.
As talk now shifts to who will replace Scalia on the court, we must honor his service by appealing to both historical precedent and good judgment.
Here’s the bottom line: The American people should have the chance to make their voices heard this November on the future of the court, rather than breaking with almost 100 years of history.
You don’t have to take my word for it; the precedent for this approach is strong. In fact, for 84 years, no U.S. Supreme Court justice has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a presidential election year to a vacancy created in that same election year.
But now President Barack Obama is demanding that the Senate — which has a constitutional right to confirm or not confirm any nominee to the Court — abandon this important historical precedent and ram through his nominee.
As a member of the House of Representatives, I stand with my colleagues in the Senate, including both Louisiana U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Bill Cassidy, who are standing up, not only against President Obama’s partisan political ploys, but for preserving the separation of powers that makes our republic strong and allowing the American people to have a say in this historic selection. To be clear, Senate Republicans are not demanding their choice; they are showing restraint and respect for our system of government — of the people, by the people and for the people.
As a conservative, I stand with the millions of Americans who demand a new Supreme Court justice who respects our Constitution as it is written, not a liberal activist judge who will attempt to write new laws from the bench.
If you want to understand why Obama is so eager to fill this vacancy in the waning months of his presidency, look no further than the record of his nominee, Merrick Garland.
While President Obama and his allies are desperately trying to paint Garland as a “reasonable moderate,” Garland’s past rulings on key issues prove otherwise.
For instance, while serving on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Garland had opportunities to rule in favor of Second Amendment rights but voted against the gun owners’ interests every time, including to maintain a federal registry of firearms owners and to give the District of Columbia government a do-over in their quest to save a draconian ban on gun ownership by law-abiding residents. Fortunately, the Supreme Court threw out D.C.’s gun ban by a 5-4 margin, but Garland’s past rulings indicate he would have been the swing vote to allow D.C. to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
Garland also has shown his liberal ideology by siding again and again with big labor unions against the rights of workers and job creators. In fact, a recent analysis by the National Federation of Independent Businesses reveals that in 16 cases involving the National Labor Relations Board, Merrick ruled each and every time in favor of Big Labor — an extremist legacy that ultimately leaves Americans with fewer jobs and less freedom.
Knowing this, it may come as no surprise that Garland also has sided repeatedly with radical environmentalists against American jobs. A recent study by the National Law Journal details Garland’s numerous rulings in favor of radical EPA regulations — some going even beyond the requests of the EPA to appease the demands of left-wing environmental groups.
Given the long list of regulatory overreaches by the Obama administration, many of which have been struck down by the courts, it’s clear that we simply cannot afford to hand a lifetime Supreme Court appointment to an anti-jobs, anti-Second Amendment, liberal ideologue.
Garland may be a good man, but his record shows us that he is no moderate, despite President Obama’s insistence otherwise.
Here again, history is instructive: Twenty-three years ago, President Bill Clinton publicly described Ruth Bader Ginsberg, during her nomination to the Supreme Court, as a “moderate,” yet internal memos from his own administration acknowledged her “instinct for defending some rather extreme liberal views.” Of course, Justice Ginsberg has shown herself to be far from a moderate, and in fact is one of the court’s most reliable liberal votes.
Out of respect for both our Constitution and our nation’s well-established history of not ramming through Supreme Court nominees in a president’s lame-duck year, I applaud the Senate’s decision to hold off on confirming any replacement for Justice Scalia until the American people have the opportunity to let their voices be heard in November’s elections.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, is the House majority whip.