The supposed principle on which Senate Republicans have been refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court has been that the American people should have a “voice” in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice.
The logic behind the claim has always been tortured. The man who nominated Garland was elected by the American people, as were the senators who would have to confirm him. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) refuse to hold a hearing on the nomination. They have also relied on a supposed “precedent,” woven from whole cloth that says Supreme Court nominees are not confirmed in a president’s final year in office.
But in general, the argument has been that Barack Obama should not be allowed to select another Supreme Court Justice -- that job should be passed on to his successor.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to re-nominate Judge Garland,” McConnell wrote in a USA Today op-ed last month. “The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, we can continue to work on legislative solutions, and the American people can continue the national conversation about the type of justice who should serve on the Supreme Court.”
In an appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday, though, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona dropped a hint that what critics of the GOP’s strategy on Garland have been arguing all along is true: The decision to block his nomination has nothing to do with letting the American people choose the person who will appoint someone to fill the seat of recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.
In fact, if the American people choose a president who might nominate someone more liberal than Garland, Flake said, they ought to be ignored.
“Republicans are more than justified in waiting,” he told host Chuck Todd. “That is following both principle and precedent. The principle is to have the most conservative qualified jurist that we can have on the Supreme Court, not that the people ought to decide before the next election. I’ve never held that position. If we come to a point––I’ve said all along––where we’re going to lose the election in November, then we ought to approve him quickly, because I’m certain he’ll be more conservative than a Hillary Clinton nomination.”
Yes, well, so much for the people.
Meanwhile Garland, an almost universally admired figure who is current chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has been waiting to have his nomination considered for nearly two months, with no end in sight.