President Barack Obama appointed Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left on the Supreme Court by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst remain opposed to confirming any Supreme Court nomination before a new President is sworn into office on January 20, 2017.
Grassley, the chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, released the following statement in opposition.
When they structured our nation, the founders placed trust in three separate but equal branches of government. Co-equal authorities are throughout the Constitution, including Article II, Section 2, where the power to nominate an individual to the Supreme Court is granted to the President and authority is given to the Senate to provide advice and consent. Nowhere in the Constitution does it describe how the Senate should either provide its consent or withhold its consent.
Today the President has exercised his constitutional authority. A majority of the Senate has decided to fulfill its constitutional role of advice and consent by withholding support for the nomination during a presidential election year, with millions of votes having been cast in highly charged contests. As Vice President Biden previously said, it’s a political cauldron to avoid. Judge Bork learned even after being unanimously confirmed for a circuit court judgeship, the confirmation process for the Supreme Court is unlike any other.
It’s also important to remember the type of nominee President Obama said he’s seeking. He says his nominee will arrive at ‘just decisions and fair outcomes’ based on the application of ‘life experience’ to the ‘rapidly changing times.’ The so-called empathy standard is not an appropriate basis for selecting a Supreme Court nominee.
A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice. Do we want a court that interprets the law, or do we want a court that acts as an unelected super legislature? This year is a tremendous opportunity for our country to have a sincere and honest debate about the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system of government.
Ernst also released her statement opposing the President’s nomination.
In the midst of a critical election, the American people deserve to have a say in this important decision that will impact the course of our country for years to come.
This is not about any particular nominee; rather this is about giving the American people a voice. Folks are frustrated with Washington, and are fed up with President Obama’s failed policies and endless power grabs. We saw this frustration embodied in 2014 when voters made their voices heard and elected a Republican majority in the Senate.
My Democratic colleagues have noted in previous years that nowhere in the Constitution does it state that the Senate must vote on the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. I support Senator Grassley’s decision to exercise the Senate’s constitutional authority to withhold consent to a Supreme Court nomination until the next president is sworn in.
We must wait to see what the people say this November, and then our next president will put forward a nominee.
Garland is currently the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit bench in 1997. President Obama during his speech introducing Garland said that his record speaks to his fundamental temperament, “his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing.”
President Obama also said that Garland is more than a brilliant legal mind.
“He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory; more than some footnote in a dusty casebook. His life experience –- his experience in places like Oklahoma City –- informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise. He understands the way law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times. And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread -– a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama stated.
Garland is arguably, based on his record as a judge and prosecutor, one of the more palatable picks that President Obama could have nominated. This is obviously aimed at convincing enough Senate Republicans to waiver in their opposition.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is related to Garland, advocated for his previous nomination to the bench in 1995. “I am writing to ask your support and assistance in the confirmation process for a second cousin… Merrick Garland has had a distinguished legal career,” Branstad wrote.
Regardless of who Obama confirmed Senate Republicans have vowed to fight that nominee so voters can weigh in on the direction of the court through their choice at the ballot box.