After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died over the weekend, Republican senators and presidential candidates wasted no time in letting President Obama know, in no uncertain terms, that they would never even entertain the notion of voting on his nominee.
It is written quite clearly in the Constitution’s Article Two that the president holds power to nominate Supreme Court justices during his full term in office. There is no rule preventing a president from nominating a justice during an election year (the so-called “Thurmond rule” is not real), no matter how much Republicans clamor that there is.
Scalia, a justice married to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, would find the whole charade laughable — Obama still has more than 300 days in office, which is plenty of time to nominate, vet and vote on a nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vehemently vowed to block any attempts by Obama to nominate a justice, saying if Obama did so it would be “shocking”: “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
Other Republicans immediately joined in with McConnell’s blatant obstructionism, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who stated that “not only does Congress have the authority to stop a nominee, it has an obligation to defend itself against a president and a radically altered court that would continue to seize its powers.”
This brazen, undisguised hypocrisy (Republicans mocked the existence of the Thurmond rule back in 2007 when George W. Bush had the potential to nominate a Supreme Court Justice during his last year in office) and ridiculous attempt to impede the political process, once again, simply because they do not like Obama did not sit well with the American people.
Now, we see Republican leaders softening their stance, telling reporters they may at least have a hearing for Obama’s nominee.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley said that, “I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions. In other words, take it a step at a time,” while Sen. Rand Paul (R-K.Y.) ceded that he would “look at” a nominee.
Sen. Tom Tillis (R-N.C.) outrightly noted the ramifications of being obstructionists: “I think we fall into the trap if we just simply say, sight unseen — we fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”
According to ThinkProgress, certain Republican senators facing tough reelections in blue states came out as particularly hesitant, including Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-W.I.) also conceded that he “might” grant a hearing for Obama’s nominee, despite McConnell’s promise otherwise.
After facing enormous backlash, it’s evident that Republicans are reconsidering McConnell’s rash pledge. The chances are incredibly low that they would actually vote through any nominee Obama puts forth, but at the very least they’ve realized that the decision to unashamedly prevent an established political process from continuing, solely due to prejudice, is not one that will aid Republicans in either the presidential or state elections.