From women's groups to members of Congress, from broadcasters to network legal analysts and from coast to coast Americans lost little time on Wednesday in telling members of the U.S. Senate to hold off on a vote on Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, an appeals court judge and longtime Washington insider, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Let us remember that Justice Scalia was an exceptional jurist with unwavering commitment to the integrity of the United States Constitution," said a statement from Jerry A. Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters organization.
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"We know the poor track record of the Obama administration on respect for freedom and the rule of law. The American people should at least have a chance to vote in November before this president gets to place a third and likely generational-altering pick on the court."
Obama's two previous picks, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both have exhibited far-left agenda adherence, such as voting for the creation of "same-sex marriage" last year. In fact, Kagan officiated at ceremonies for same-sex duos, and then still participated in the decision even though a legal foundation pointed out that probably was an ethical violation and she should have recused herself.
The present opening was created by the sudden death last month of Antonin Scalia, one of the stalwarts of the U.S. Constitution in Washington.
The NRB said simply the American people should have a voice at the presidential race ballot box – on the direction for the nation for at least the next four years – before any appointment is confirmed.
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The organization recently wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to assure him the members would stand with him in his decision to wait until the November elections.
In the letter, Johnson said, "The Constitution that Justice Scalia fought for decades to uphold provides the president the power to nominate judges and the Senate the power of advice and consent. This is a key principle in the separation of powers between the branches of our nation's government. Unfortunately, America's current president has shown little restraint in asserting authority in areas properly belonging to other federal branches, the states, or the people themselves. I urge you to do all that you can to prevent the president from attempting to work around the will of the legislative branch in this matter."
In a Rose Garden announcement, Obama announced Garland, 63, a Harvard law graduate who, like Obama, calls Chicago his hometown, as his pick.
Garland has served as both a judge and prosecutor, and Obama noted he is respected from "both sides of the political aisle."
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Obama acknowledged the nomination during a presidential election year is controversial.
"I have recognized that we have entered the political season," Obama said. "I know the Republicans will point to Democrats that have made it hard for Republicans to get their nominations confirmed. And they're not wrong about that."
But he insisted the Senate must act.
"I have fulfilled my constitutional duty," Obama said. "Now it's time for the Senate to do theirs."
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McConnell said the Senate "will continue to observe the Biden rule, so that the American people will have a voice."
He was referring to then-Sen. Joe Biden's argument against the Senate giving a Republican president's nomination any consideration during a presidential election year.
Obama said he was simply asking for a “fair hearing” for Garland and for senators to do that "now."
'Not a win'
Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said, "This is not a win for President Obama in that Judge Garland is the most conservative nominee to the Supreme Court by a Democratic president in the modern era."
"President Obama nominated Judge Garland, in my opinion, to frustrate the process."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the committee’s longest serving member, issued a statement Wednesday making it clear he will oppose the nomination on principle.
“The Senate has never allowed a term-limited president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy this late in his term,” Hatch said.
Napolitano said Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is no Kagan or Sotomayor, referring to Obama's two appointments to the high court.
“[Garland] does not think about the law the way Barack Obama thinks about the law," Napolitano said.
He said Obama "appears more interested in the politics of the process, attempting to pry loose Republicans who actually like Judge Garland and agree with him, rather than advancing his own philosophy legacy on the court that Obama advanced with Sotomayor and Kagen.”
Napolitano rejected Obama’s anticipated argument that the Senate has a responsibility to hold hearings and vote on the nomination, arguing the Constitution imposes no such obligation on Congress.
“I believe the Senate will stand firm and they have the constitutional and legal right to do so,” Napolitano said. “There may be political ramifications in that President Obama may try to pry loose GOP Senators who are facing tough re-election campaigns, and he may succeed there. But the decision whether to hear this nomination and give an up or down vote is not made by the 54 GOP Senators, it’s made by one of the – Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell.”
On the Senate floor, McConnell affirmed that the Senate will not act on the nomination, explaining the issue is not the individual but the process through which Obama has proposed shaping the high court into the future.
Napolitano characterized Garland as a “consummate Washington, D.C. insider,” noting he served as a prosecutor in the Justice Department under President George H. W. Bush and was nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court by President Clinton in 1997.
“It’s dangerous to appoint to the court someone like Garland with a 19-year track record on the federal bench because opponents of the nomination will certainly find decisions Garland made that they find objectionable,” Napolitano said.
Hatch noted that the current vacancy is only the third in nearly a century to occur amid presidential election voting.
“In the previous two instances, in 1956 and 1968, the Senate did not confirm a nominee until the year after the presidential election,” Hatch said.
“In fact, the only time the Senate has ever confirmed a nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy created after voting began in a presidential election year was in 1916, and that vacancy only arose when Justice Charles Evans Hughes resigned his seat on the court to run against the incumbent president."
The White House immediately released a list of endorsements of Merrick, including from Hatch, who in 2010 called Merrick a "consensus" nominee.
Five years earlier, John Roberts, now the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, called Merrick's opinion in one case "reasonable."
But Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, got to the heart of the matter.
"The president has the constitutional authority to nominate and the U.S. Senate has the authority to advise and consent. The decision to withhold advancement of Mr. Garland's nomination isn't about the individual, it's about the principle," he said. "Alaskans, like all Americans, are in the midst of an important national election. The next Supreme Court justice could fundamentally change the direction of the court for years to come. Alaskans deserve to have a voice in that direction through their vote."
The chairman of the prominent Liberty Counsel organization, Mat Staver, said Americans need to hold the Senate Judiciary committee Senate to its promise not to conduct any hearings right away.
"An Obama nominee will set the Supreme Court in a direction that for decades [will] disregard the Constitution and the rule of law. The future of America is at stake," he said.
The pro-life activists at Operation Rescue said Merrick could affect "millions of lives."
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said: "I refuse to support any nominee – Republican or Democrat – that will not renounce Roe v. Wade and commit to restoring legal protections to the pre-born. I strongly urge the members of the Judiciary Committee to hold fast to their promise, for the sake of the future of our country and the future of our posterity."
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice, which already has collected 175,000 signatures of Americans who want the appointment delayed until a new president arrives, said, "We are in the middle of a critical election and it's important that Americans have a voice in filling the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We continue to urge the U.S. Senate to delay any confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee until the presidential election is concluded and a new president is in office," he said. "While the Constitution assigns to the president the role of naming a nominee to the high court, it vests in the Senate a co-equal role in this vital process: No nominee may be confirmed without the Senate’s 'advice and consent.' It is the Senate that has the constitutional right to act – or take no action at all – on a president's nominee."
Another powerhouse in conservative circles, the Alliance Defending Freedom, released a statement from Senior Counsel Casey Mattox.
"The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable," he said. "The truth is that the Senate and the president share the responsibility in deciding who will sit on the Supreme Court. Especially in the midst of an intense presidential election season, the Senate majority is wise to exercise its authority to not hold hearings out respect for the voice of the American people and the next president we will elect."
FreedomWorks, which advocates smaller government, lower taxes, free markets and personal liberty, released a statement from CEO Adam Brandon.
"The Senate is not obligated to confirm or even hold hearings for a president's nominee to the Supreme Court. These senators, many of whom have concerns about the centralization of power in the executive branch under President Obama and the administration's disregard for fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution, are not willing to be rubber stamps for this White House. It's disingenuous for the White House, Senate Democrats, and pundits friendly to this president to imply that the Senate should be just a rubber stamp," he said.
"The position of Republican senators is exactly the same position that Democrats like Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer have taken in previous confirmation battles or public statements on nominees to the Supreme Court and lower courts. Our community of conservative activists believes that Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley should stand firm and continue to insist that they will not hold hearings or a vote on a nominee until the next president is sworn into office," he said.
Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21, a leading organization providing a voice for black conservatives, said, "The White House believes it can hide behind the notion that the U.S. Senate should 'do its duty' and act on his nominee. Perhaps if the president had done his duty to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,' he would have a case.
"Having undermined and disregarded the Constitution (including holding the dubious distinction of being the modern president with the most unanimous losses before the Supreme Court), this president has no moral authority to attack the Senate or to name a new nominee to the court who would roll back the freedoms the American people cherish."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, described the Republican response to the nomination as a "temper tantrum."
"Frankly, I've grown a little sick of Republicans in Congress and their antics that have ranged from simply unproductive to downright offensive," she said in a statement. "Over the course of President Obama's seven years in office, the GOP has used our Congress as its own stage for public temper tantrums and meltdowns, habitually standing in the way of progress instead of doing their jobs and helping our country move forward.
"This is not leadership. This is obstruction. It's a vendetta."
But Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said: "Garland is far from being a consensus nominee and would be an incredibly different jurist than Justice Scalia. In fact, he was opposed by almost a quarter of the senators who voted on his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1997, and some of Judge Garland's most recent opinions and dissents raises serious questions about his ability to serve as a constitutionalist."
He pointed out 25 other nominees to the Supreme Court over the years did not get an up-or-down vote.
"This November, Americans will speak to who they want nominating the next justice for the United States Supreme Court. The American people should have a say, and the Senate should respect Americans' desire to speak to this important issue by declining to schedule hearings and votes on a Supreme Court nominee this year," he said.
Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said: "Our very form of government is at stake here. Fundamental rights, like the First and Second Amendment, do not have majority support at the Supreme Court right now. Americans should be aware of what is at stake as they select their candidate for president this November."
She added: "Over two hundred CWA state leaders from around the country have signed a letter in full support of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley's careful approach to this vacancy. Republican leadership is living up to its sacred oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States by withholding consent from President Obama's nominee."
Tea Party Patriots CEO Jenny Beth Martin said the president "is ignoring over 80 years of precedence to selfishly try to cement his liberal legacy."
"Merrick Garland will be a reliable liberal vote on every meaningful case that comes before him and President Obama has already put two liberal extremists on the Supreme Court."
Legal Fellow Erin Hawley at the Independent Women's Forum said there's simply no way to replace Scalia, and "his legacy reveals just how much is at stake with this appointment of his replacement."
"It is precisely because not all judges and not all administrations share Justice Scalia's view that the powers of the federal judiciary are limited that so much is now at stake. As the Supreme Court decides issue after issue that would better be left to the democratically elected branches, the constitutional checks placed on the court become even more important. This is why it is critical that the Senate postpone action on this vacancy and wait for the American people to make their will known through the next election."
Sen. Patrick Leahy D-Vt., said the Senate holds confirmation votes on nominees "on average 70 days after their formal nomination."
The same should apply to Garland, he insisted.
The 2nd Amendment
Politico reported the Judicial Crisis Network criticized Garland's "hostility" to the Second Amendment and his opinion on abortion and promised a $2 million ad campaign to oppose Garland.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, was alarmed by Garland's position on the right to bear arms.
"While the president has every right to make a nomination to fill the seat on the Supreme Court, the Senate also has every right to confirm or not confirm that nominee," he said. "I hope the Senate takes a strong stand against a nominee that has shown he is no friend to the Constitution and no friend to the right to keep and bear arms."
He said Garland's vote on a gun case indicated he would have changed the decision that held Washington's handgun ban was unconstitutional.
"Additionally, in NRA v. Reno, Garland ruled in favor of government retention, for six months, of background check information that is collected when people legally purchase guns, a position the NRA vehemently rejected. The NRA argued that the information was required to be immediately destroyed under the Brady Act," he reported.