Combatting GOP Senators' Refusal To Replace Scalia Now: Democrats Should Hold Private Hearings of Their Own

Supreme Court, Washington
Supreme Court, Washington

Instead of striking a compromise and/or waiting to see who President Obama nominates to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate Judiciary Committee members sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supporting his efforts not to consider anyone Obama nominates.

Senate Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Member John Cornyn (R-Texas) said "We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president," apparently forgetting that Obama is not a lame-duck president. He has almost a year left in office. A lame-duck president refers to the months between a presidential election and Inauguration Day. Otherwise a president would effectively be a lame-duck president the moment he/she was re-elected.

Cornyn further said, "I don't see the point in going through the motions when we know what the outcome is going to be."

What would that be, Senator Cornyn, an admission that the Judiciary Committee is dogged in its determination to reject even an unknown nominee? This is in itself a stupid comment, a public confession that they are prejudiced against the nominator more than any nominee. How foolish was it for the GOP to play its hand so openly, and in the process enrage that segment of the population who are reasonable (read that not to include over half of the GOP who continue to vote for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz), instead of quietly fulfilling the Senate's constitutionally mandated duties?

A few of my readers took issue with the notion that the Senate was mandated to take up a presidential nomination, and one in particular repeated, ad nausea, that the Senate had the power to advise and consent and therefore didn't have to consider anyone.

Advise and consent refers to the checks and balances our system has, wherein the Senate may reject a presidential nominee. While the language of "consideration" is not in the constitution it is certainly implied. The president nominates and the Senate takes the name of the individual and goes through the motions. It may ultimately, due to only political and not necessarily reasonable judgment, reject the nominee. But it has the duty to go through the routine. Otherwise, the constitution would state that the Senate must invite a nomination for consideration, upon which it would then advise and consent. By declaring in advance that whomever the president nominated, perhaps even Ted Cruz, it would not fulfill its constitutional duties, I believe that's something that might be litigated in the now divided Supreme Court.

Cornyn was joined by others on the committee, such as Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who said, "That's the consensus view ... No hearing, no vote." Many might remember Graham as the smarmy House prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton when it was tried in the Senate. I still remember his holier than thou disgust going over and over the clearly trivial charges that in no way indicated the president was corrupt in his role as head of state.

This, even while at the same time Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace, his intended replacement Bob Livingston (R-LA) immediately stepped down when news of his extra-marital affair came out, and the ultimate victor Dennis Hastert, who then served eight years as Speaker, recently accepted a plea deal over payments to silence a former student over alleged sexual abuse when he'd been a high school wrestling coach many years earlier.

Oh, if only the Democrats could be as full of morality as those in the GOP.

But I'm mostly concerned with the "Hearings would be a waste of time" added by John McCain (R-Ariz). I'd thought he might be a voice of reason, as was Susan Collins (R-Maine) or Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), who urged consideration, but after thinking it over maybe McCain wants to cover up the real reason they don't want hearings.

Because it just may be that whomever Obama nominates might wow the Media and the nation in the way he/she comports him/herself. And the nominee might even be someone currently on the Court of Appeals who the Senate had either unanimously or overwhelmingly voted to confirm.

With a clear and qualified and lauded suggested Supreme Court Justice the GOP would be hard pressed to deny its assent, which could otherwise provide fodder in the presidential election to ultimately elect either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to appoint the new nominee.

At the moment, however, the intransigent and increasingly vile Senate GOP opposition sees no problem in allowing a 4-4 Supreme Court to possibly not decide important cases for over a year. Indeed, even retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said "I think we need somebody there to do the job now and let's get on with it."

I have a solution to further make the case for whomever Obama nominates. In the current likely situation that the Senate will not perform their constitutional duty and even consider a nominee, why don't the Senate Democrats hold their own hearings?

If they are constrained from booking a hearing room, even as members of a committee, why not just rent a major ballroom in a central Washington hotel, invite the Media and the public -- and indeed even the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee and any other GOP senators who wish to attend, and put the spotlight on the nominee?

Ask tough questions, and maybe, in the absence of GOP senators, have one of the Democratic senators play the role that someone usually does in preparing a presidential candidate for a debate. Vigorous interrogation, spewing forth the attacks they know the GOP would lob, and if the Supreme Court nominee comes through with flying colors and the performance is broadcast on all the networks and appears in headlines across newspapers across the globe, won't the GOP look increasingly small-minded and silly as the electorate heads to the polls to elect, not just a new president, but a Senate in which there are many GOP senators in close contests?

In spite of what they might say or think, this is by no means a win-win for the Mitch McConnell obstructionist types in Congress. Maybe they should just grow up and act like Americans.

Michael Russnow's website is