An open letter to Senator Mike Enzi and the Republican majority (for now) in the Senate

So, I wrote to Senators Enzi and Barrasso of Wyoming, urging them to do their job and consider the nominee President Obama will put forth soon:
As your constituent, I strongly urge against joining the handful of ultra-partisan senators promising maximum obstruction, and ask you to provide fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
The Senate has a constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” on Supreme Court nominees. The senators refusing to give any nominee a vote until the next election are placing partisanship ahead of their moral and constitutional obligations — I hope that you do not join them.
Americans deserve for the highest court in the land to be functional and fully-staffed — not long-term vacancies borne of political gridlock.
I urge you to make sure that any Supreme Court nominee receives a fair hearing and timely vote.
He responded with the canned statement that he posted on his website. I felt like I needed to say something back.

Thank you for your response on February 25th to our concerns regarding your decision to not even consider a nominee for the Supreme Court submitted by President Obama. I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly.

But I must respond. I find your reasoning so full of half-truths and hidden agendas that I feel I must address each one individually.

The lifetime appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is not a decision to be made lightly.

I couldn’t agree more. And I believe President Obama takes this duty very seriously. The death of Justice Scalia came as shock to everyone and I sympathize with his family and friends. But your next comment reveals what I believe is your real motivation for obstruction:

History has shown that a justice’s role in shaping our legal understanding of the Constitution is immensely powerful and should not be underestimated.

Supreme Court justices have a tendency to interpret the Constitution one way or another depending on their political ideology. This is the case despite the assumption that they should be fair and impartial, and that Justice is blind. But Conservatives and Liberals use this tendency to their advantage whenever they can.

And that’s really what is comes down to, isn’t it? You know, at best, President Obama is going to nominate a Liberal-leaning Moderate. You and your Conservative colleagues were hoping that this moment, when it came time to appoint a new Justice to the bench, would come when there was a Republican in the White House.

But claiming that President Obama should not nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement because it is too close to the end of his second term, or because it is an election year, is ridiculous and a shameful abuse of your position. With nearly a year left in his Presidency, the timing may be unfortunate for you, but there is more than enough time to get the job done. In fact, more than twice the amount of time than it has ever taken to confirm a Supreme Court Justice.

The President has a Constitutional duty to submit nominees to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The fact that it is his last year, or it is an election year is irrelevant. The Senate has a Constitutional duty to consider any nominee the President puts forward and vote on whether to confirm or reject. And I think this brings up another interesting point. I think certain Senate Conservatives are afraid, despite holding the majority, that if they allow an Obama nominee to come up for a vote, they still may not be able to block the appointment. And that is why they have come up with this scheme.

President Obama has ignored the Constitution when it has suited his agenda and he’s expanded executive power at the expense of the legislative branch.

First, even if this was true, this does not change the fact that the President has a duty to nominate and the Senate has a duty to consider his nominee. You make it sound like you are trying to punish the President for some imagined crime. This is a very childish move.

Second, President Obama, a constitutional scholar, has not ignored the Constitution. He is exercising legitimate powers that are granted to him by the Constitution. The fact that the Legislature – which has done nothing but obstruct the President at every turn – is unhappy with the actions the President has taken because they run counter to their Conservative agenda is irrelevant. President Obama has tried to work with the Legislature for seven years, but when it has remained clear that the Conservative majority refused to compromise with him on important issues, he was forced to take the only other legal actions he could.

The Supreme Court has recognized these abuses and has played an important role in reigning in President Obama’s excessive executive actions.

I assume you are referring to the debunked claim that the Supreme Court has time and time again voted unanimously to overturn the President’s overreach. This repeated rhetoric of misinformation is an insult to the American people, especially when your outrage is conspicuously missing when President Bush did far more of what you categorize as “executive overreach.”

Congress is set up to be an equal branch of government to the executive and judicial.

Yes, I understand that the three branches of government provide checks and balances to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful or abusive. The flip side to that is that the three branches work cooperatively to make the government work smoothly. Please don’t insult the American people by pretending that the Legislature is the victim in this scenario when you and your colleagues have done nothing of significance to advance the country, but instead have been intensely obstructionist at every turn.

The Constitution gives the Senate the right to make decisions on a Supreme Court nominee.

The Constitution gives the Senate the right to advise and then to consent (or withhold consent of a nominee before you). Despite the patronizing tone you take in lecturing us about the branches of government, either you are mistaken or you are being willfully negligent in your duties. In order to fulfill the role you actually have, you must act on the nomination the President of the United States puts before you.

“[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he 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, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”

~ Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution — AKA the Appointments Clause

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has announced the committee’s intention to exercise its constitutional authority to withhold consent on a nominee submitted by this president.

Senator Grassley and the other 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have made an unwise and possibly unconstitutional decision. But there is no doubt that it was a decision born of Conservatives’ typical partisan obstructionism and nothing more. There is no other good reason and there are members of your own party in the Senate who agree.

I believe the American people should decide the direction of the Supreme Court.

The American people elected Barack Obama as their President in 2008 and again in 2012. He is still President until January 20, 2017, nearly 11 more months. You seem to be under the impression that we are sitting in some constitutional limbo land where the rules no longer apply.

I implore you to end the childish games and do your job.

But if you prefer, we can wait until January and let President Bernie Sanders nominate the next Supreme Court Justice – perhaps President Barack Obama?

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