When President Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans immediately refused to even hold a hearing on the nomination, leading to a record-setting vacancy on the Supreme Court. Now that Donald Trump is about to fill that stolen seat, Paul Waldman at the Washington Post offers a cogent argument for the Democrats to give the GOP a taste of their own medicine.
The adamant refusal by Republicans in Congress to give Merrick Garland a hearing, and to leave late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat open indefinitely — or at least until Donald Trump was elected — was an unprecedented dereliction of duty.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently declared, “If [Donald Trump’s] nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream, we absolutely will keep the seat open.”
And as the country awaits Trump’s unveiling of his nominee, Paul Waldman of the Washington Post has a message for Congressional Democrats: Do not go quietly along to get along.
Should [Democrats] filibuster Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination?
Yes, they should. They should do it to make a statement about the unconscionable way in which Republicans held this seat open, and about their willingness to be strong in the face of Republican bullying. And they need to realize that in taking this step, they have absolutely nothing to lose.
Waldman notes that filibusters of Supreme Court nominees are rare, but that our current reality, brought about largely by the Republicans themselves, demands such an action:
When Scalia died last February, Republicans decided that they would refuse to allow a Democratic president to fill the seat, as the Constitution mandates. They gambled that while they would endure some criticism in the short term, eventually everyone would stop worrying about it, and they could just wait until they got a Republican president to allow a confirmation to proceed. […]
Republicans made a power play because it was technically legal and they figured they could get away with it. The fact that their gamble paid off doesn’t make it any less reprehensible, and Democrats should take a simple stand: This seat was Barack Obama’s to fill, and Merrick Garland should be the one occupying it. This nomination is fruit of a poisoned tree, whether the nominee is a fine fellow or not.
Waldman acknowledges that some Democrats are uneasy about the concept of filibustering the nominee, partially because it could cause them to “lose leverage” in future nomination fights, but he points out that there really is no leverage to be had with this obstructionist GOP. If the Democrats are going to continue to be the barrier they promised to be, on the issue of the Supreme Court, the time for that is now:
This seat was essentially stolen from Barack Obama. This is where Democrats need to make a stand, even if the outcome is all but inevitable. They have to demonstrate to the broader public that this seat should have been filled last year. And they need to show their constituents — the majority of Americans who voted against Donald Trump and want to see an opposition with some spine — that they’re willing to take a stand.