NEW CASTLE, Pa., Mar. 21, 2016 – Had Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died following the 2016 Presidential Election, Merrick Garland would be the nomination of a lame-duck President Obama. Consequently, it would probably be inappropriate, though legal and Constitutional, for President Obama to offer a nomination and have that nomination confirmed to a lifelong post.
Had Justice Scalia died near the end of the Supreme Court’s summer break, people might have concerns that there would not be enough time to hold proper confirmation hearings before the November elections.
As Justice Scalia died in the middle of a Supreme Court term and as the nomination process is able to deliver a necessary appointee for the start of the next term, the impact of campaign politics on the nomination process on the Presidential election is not an imminent enough threat to warrant obstructing normal procedure.
After all, the 2016 Presidential Campaign has not even technically begun. The 2016 Presidential primaries have yet to deliver the Republican and Democratic nominees.
Even though it is an election year, the country still needs to be run. Life might stop for politicians hitting the campaign trail, but it goes on for everyone else, and the government must stay open for business.
It is the responsibility of President Obama to offer a Supreme Court nominee, which he has done, and it is the responsibility of Congress to give that nominee a fair hearing.
Given President Obama’s nomination is considered a compromise nominee, the nomination of Judge Garland is not an example of a lame-duck President trying to politically manipulate the balance of power in the Supreme Court .
The refusal of Republicans to even hold nomination hearings for Judge Garland before the vote in November is, therefore, simply an extension of the Republican obstructionism that has turn the Federal government into a dysfunctional mess.
By the logic of Republican leadership, the President becomes a lame-duck as soon as the Presidential election cycle begins. As the 2016 Election cycle started in early 2015 and as the season keeps getting longer, the only time it seems a nominee could be appointed to the Supreme Court is before the mid-term election, if then.
That said, Supreme Court appointments have been politicized and they have become ideological in nature thanks to political efforts to bias and rebalance the Courts.
There have always been judicially conservative Justices who defer to standing laws, case history, and elected officials, while there have also been liberal Justices more than willing to upset established laws, precedents, and the intent of lawmakers to protect their interpretation of the Law and the Constitution in line with their Constitutional responsibilities.
The problem is that Presidents and lawmakers have sought to create a bias the Supreme Court along ideological divisions to promote their own objectives.
Given that Judge Garland appears to be a middle ground nominee chosen to appease Democrats and Republicans, Garland’s appointment would likely not upset the political balance of the Court too greatly. Judge Garland’s tendency to adhere to majority opinions and defer to the judgment of lawmakers should be seen as a positive by Republicans who are infuriated by an activist court.
There is, however, one political disadvantage to nominating such a Justice at this time. The future of landmark Obama Administration legislation such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act remains unclear as Republicans continue their efforts to chip away at Obama’s legacy. A Supreme Court unwilling to overturn these laws is not politically advantageous to Republicans at this time.
Ultimately, the abuse of the Supreme Court by politicians undermines the Court’s ability to act as an impartial and politically independent arbitrator.
This is also the same reason Republicans are struggling with the nomination of Donald Trump. Not only are they unwilling to let the nomination process work as intended when the predicted results are perceived to be disadvantageous to them. They are thoroughly unwilling to accept compromise or even work toward compromise.
They demand a rigid enforcement of the rules when they see a benefit to their interests, yet want to change those rules whenever it is to their detriment. In short, the GOP’s current identify crisis is brought about by the self-serving, self-centered tendencies of its party elite.