One of the things the media enables is bomb-tossing. It encourages extreme reactions on both sides. And so, it was disappointing, but not surprising, that within hours of the announcement of Justice Scalia’s death, the Senate Majority Leader was talking about not allowing a nomination for his replacement to come to a vote.
Just as parents expect good behavior from their children, I have certain expectations from my leaders. In neither case, is an expectation a guarantee. In both cases, when expectations are not met, there should be consequences.
I expect my leaders to do their duty.
I expect them to fulfill the requirements of the jobs they chose to run for, and were elected to. If they want to grandstand or pontificate, they should get a job in the media. At the end of the day, I expect them to be grownups, to understand they can’t hold us hostage until they get exactly what they want. I expect them to come to an accommodation with each other.
It’s absurd to expect the Court to run with a vacancy for a full year. It would mean too many tie decisions, too many cases put over for re-argument, too much delay processing certiorari petitions.
It’s also absurd to say that there can’t be nominations made during an election year. Many justices have been confirmed in presidential election years, including Anthony Kennedy.
What I Expect From the President:
I expect the President to nominate someone Senate Republicans can live with. I’m not saying he should nominate someone they would whole-heartedly endorse, just someone they can accept. The President needs to accept the fact that the majority of the Senate is controlled by conservative Republicans. I’m not saying he needs to nominate another Scalia; I’m saying it’s not a time to nominate another Kagan (not to disparage Justice Kagan; I like her a lot). He needs to find a middle of the road candidate. He should in fact, solicit the advice of both sides of the Senate. He would probably be better off if he did this privately.
What I Expect From the Senate:
I expect the Senate to give whomever the President nominates an honest consideration and an honest vote. I expect the Senators to recognize that he is the President, and that, according to the Constitution, it is his duty to make the final nomination. They need to recognize that whoever replaces Justice Scalia is not going to be as conservative as he was, just as liberals in 1975 had to accept that whoever President Ford appointed would not be as liberal as Justice Douglas.
If the President solicits their advice, they should give it. It would be more productive if they gave it to him directly rather than through the media.
I do not expect the Senate to rubber stamp a nomination. If the President were to send them a nomination that was clearly unsuitable, constitutionally, they do have the right to withhold their consent. But they need to recognize unpalatable is not the same as unsuitable. I do expect them to act on his nomination.
What I Expect from the President and the Senate:
I expect both sides to remember that the other party has prerogatives, and a Constitutional role in this process. I expect both sides to realize that the Court should not be expected to limp along for a year. I expect them all to be grownups, and realize that they are all not just members of political parties, but Officers of the United States of America, and (like any job), their office requires them to sometimes do things not exactly the way they want it. Realistically, I also would remind them that what comes around goes around, and at some point, their political fortunes will be reversed.
I expect them all to do their duty to the country I love.