Nomination Politics

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver the State
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Obama said he regrets that political divisiveness in the U.S. grew during his seven years in the White House and he plans to use his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to call for the nation to unite. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Constitution provides the president with the power to nominate an individual to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. And it also gives Congress the role of 'advice and consent':

"He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent, of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law."

This straightforward statement calls on Congress to provide advice and consent to the president on his nominee. Nowhere does it state that a president in his last year of office cannot nominate someone. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have thrown out a lot of supposed 'precedent' for not moving forward with a nomination in an election year with a lame duck president. Considering that President Obama is the first lame duck president in 116 years to be placed in the position of filling an unexpected judicial vacancy during his final 11 months in office, there really is no precedent.

On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announced that he would follow the "Biden Rule" -- based on a floor statement then Senator Biden made in 1992 stating: "Once the political season is under way, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over." The only thing this statement proves is that neither party can claim the high road when it comes to politics vs. duty

The argument has also been made that we should wait until after the election so the "people' can weigh in. The people have already weighed in. They elected a president and 100 Senators who are supposed to serve as their voice. Unfortunately there have been few voices of reason raised. One who has spoken out, Maine Senator Susan Collins, said "It is the duty of the Senate, under the Constitution, to give our advice and give our consent or withhold our consent. I believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the Senate."

On Tuesday, Senator McConnell ended the discussion when he announced "Presidents have a right to nominate just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it."

If a majority of the Senate disagrees with a president on a nominee, so be it. But it is their duty -- as laid out in the Constitution -- to hold hearings and vote on the president's nominee. They can vote the nominee down if a majority do not believe that individual is right for the job. But to simply issue a carte blanche 'No' before a name is even put forward, let alone before a single hearing is held, is an abdication of their duties under the Constitution and their duty to we, the people.