Since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past weekend, Republican leaders are insisting President Obama shouldn’t be allowed to appoint a successor this late in his term. Meanwhile, Democrats say he not only should make an appointment, but that the Senate has a duty to confirm a qualified appointee.
They’re both wrong.
The Constitution is clear on Obama’s role. It doesn’t say he may appoint a successor at any time during his term, but that he shall do so. It’s his constitutional duty.
And the precedent is there. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson made a final-year Supreme Court appointment (that was subsequently blocked), and while Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Anthony Kennedy actually happened less than two months before his final year in office, it wasn’t confirmed by the Senate until February of ’88.
But on the other hand, the Senate isn’t required to confirm anyone Obama may nominate. While the oversight the Senate is granted in this process is to guard against the appointment of unqualified candidates, they can pretty much reject anyone they want if they have the votes.
How you feel about what should happen comes down to nothing more than politics. But until next January, Obama is still the President and the Senate is still the Senate. They should both do their duties and let the chips fall where they may.
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I’m Bill Lamb and that’s my Point of View.