Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) had strong words this week for the Republicans who have already refused to consider any nominations from President Barack Obama for a successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In a Wednesday conversation with HuffPost Live, Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, said he hopes the upper chamber will acknowledge that it has a responsibility to debate and vote on a Supreme Court nomination. The Senate's preemptive refusal to do this, he said, is a symptom of the "polarization of our society" and represents the kind of partisan gridlock that makes people hold Congress in such low regard.
"It's a mistake for the Senate majority to say -- here is an already dysfunctional Senate, non-functioning -- to say, 'We're not going to do what is our constitutional responsibility on one of the most important tasks assigned to the Senate by the Constitution,'" Mitchell told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani.
Republicans have argued that waiting until after November's election to determine a new Supreme Court justice would be the best thing for U.S. voters. Mitchell, who declined a Supreme Court nomination of his own in 1994, said he's skeptical of that line of reasoning.
"Obama was elected twice -- the last time by 5 million votes, a huge electoral majority. And his term runs for four years," Mitchell said. "I think it's kind of an insult to the millions of Americans who voted for President Obama to somehow claim that his term ends after three years, or doesn't continue into this last year."
"The voters have decided who the president should be until January 20, 2017, by very decisive margins," he went on. "So I don't think that argument carries any weight."
There is no constitutional or legal basis for the Senate to refuse even to consider a nominee, nor is there any historical precedent for doing so, Mitchell said.
"It's a political move to try to generate political support for their position," he said.
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