By Carol Tobias, President, National Right to Life
Editor’s note. The following President’s column appears in the March digital edition of National Right to Life News. You can read Carol’s important insights at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsMarch2016.pdf.
The entire 41-page issue can be read, downloaded, and/or forwarded to your pro-life friends and family. Please help us by sharing the many stories, columns, editorials, and commentaries using your social media networks.
Friends, we have a job to do. There is a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court and Republican senators will be under tremendous pressure for the next (approximately) nine months to hold hearings and vote on any nominee put forth by President Obama. Our job is to encourage and support the Republican senators in their decision to “Give the People a Voice.”
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia was a tremendous tragedy for the right-to-life movement. Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Justice Scalia steadfastly defended the right of elected lawmakers to enact laws that protect unborn children and their mothers, and he often criticized the judicially manufactured barriers that limited such legislative efforts.
Article 2, Section 2, of the Constitution says that the president “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…”
President Obama is determined to fill the vacant seat and thereby decisively shift the Court’s balance on abortion, political free-speech rights, and a host of other issues. Yet, while he has the authority to nominate, he appoints only with the consent of the Senate. Nothing says the Senate has to consent to his nominee. The Republican senators have decided that, with an upcoming election in November, the voters should decide what kind of justice they want on the Court by the election of a presidential candidate. Thus, the “Give the People a Voice” campaign.
Senate Democrats and many left-leaning organizations have started a counter-campaign, telling senators to “Do Your Job.” They argue that the senators must hold hearings and vote on the nominee; of course, with the hope that the nominee will be confirmed. They are desperate to give President Obama the opportunity to put his third justice on the High Court.
What these senators and groups are conveniently overlooking is that, when the shoe was on the other foot, they held the same position senate Republicans hold now.
In opposing President George W. Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito in 2005, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated, “The duties of the United States Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That’s very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.” He added, “The Senate is not a rubber stamp for the executive branch.”
In July of 2007, 19 months before President Bush’s term ended and when there was not even an opening on the Supreme Court, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), then a member of the Democrat majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated, “We should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, except in extraordinary circumstances.” (Schumer is widely expected to take over as leader of the Democrats upon the retirement of Reid at the end of this year.)
In 1992, the current vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, then serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated on the Senate floor, “It is my view that if a Supreme Court justice resigns tomorrow or within the next several weeks, or resigns at the end of the summer, President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and NOT, and NOT, name a nominee until after the November election is completed.
“The Senate, too, Mr. President, must consider how it would respond to a Supreme Court vacancy that would occur in the full throes of an election year. It is my view that if the president goes the way of Presidents Fillmore and Johnson and presses an election year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider NOT scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over. And I sadly predict, Mr. President, that this is going to be one of the bitterest, dirtiest, presidential campaigns we will have seen in modern times.
“I’m sure, Mr. President, after having uttered these words, some will criticize such a decision and say that it was nothing more than an attempt to save a seat on the court in hopes that a Democrat will be permitted to fill it, but that would not be our intention, Mr. President. If that were the course we were to choose as a Senate, to not consider holding hearings until after the election, instead it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. That is what is fair to the nominee and essential to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me, Mr. President, we will be in deep trouble as an institution.
“Others may fret that this approach would leave the Court with only eight members for some time, but as I see it, Mr. President, the cost of such a result, the need to reargue three or four cases that will divide the Justices four to four are quite minor compared to the cost that a nominee, the President, the Senate, and the nation would have to pay for what would assuredly be a bitter fight, no matter how good a person is nominated by the President, if that nomination were to take place in the next several weeks. In the end, this may be the only course of action that historical practice and practical realism can sustain.”
Moreover, during the administration of President George W. Bush, Senate Democrats blocked the confirmation of many of President Bush’s nominations to the federal courts of appeals, in most cases by denying them up and down votes, or even hearings in some cases. Indeed, in 1992, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Biden killed the nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia simply by refusing, throughout the year, to even schedule a hearing on the nomination.
Biden, Reid, Schumer, and friends won’t let their hypocrisy get in the way of a well-funded, well-executed plan to pressure Senate Republicans to conduct hearings and vote on President Obama’s nominee. The #DoYourJob campaign is well underway, on TV, radio, newspaper and social media.
In a sense, the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court is on the ballot in every presidential election — yet, the intensifying debate surrounding the current vacancy may have an impact on the general election to a degree seldom if ever seen before in our nation’s history.
As Justice Scalia’s chair remains vacant, voters across the nation will consider: What kind of justice do we want in that chair? What kind of president do we want making that nomination? What kind of Senate do we want holding hearings and giving advice and possible consent to the nominee?
Use every opportunity—petitions, fair booths, social media pages, advertising campaigns, etc., to reach voters; explaining their opportunity to make their voices heard in the nomination process. And definitely use every means possible to encourage the Senate to stand firm and #GiveThePeopleAVoice.