Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, 11 months before President Obama leaves office. Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed him in March, 10 months before Obama leaves office. Now we’re down to nine months. At some point the Republicans’ argument that Obama’s too much of a short-timer to nominate anybody will start to make sense.
As Republicans say their refusal to hold confirmation hearings is a matter of principle, I asked my Republican friend Bentley what the principle is.
“The voice of the people must first be heard,” said Bentley.
But that voice was heard when the people elected Obama in 2012, I protested.
“Yes,” he replied, “and it was heard again in 2014 when the people elected a Republican Senate to mess with his head.”
So you think that ever since the midterm elections the president has had no business nominating anybody?
“Since much sooner than that,” said Bentley. “If the president had named someone before the midterm elections, he’d have been sending a nomination to the Senate before the people got a chance to say who they wanted in the Senate to vote on the nomination.”
I wondered if that made sense.
“It would have been the height of arrogance and might have led to impeachment,” said Bentley.
So Obama’s mistake was to think he could nominate anybody at any time?
“That’s not true,” said Bentley. “Nominating justices is clearly the president’s constitutional duty. But if he weren’t so arrogant he’d have asked the Senate to send him a short list of names. Even now, I bet Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz would be happy to vote on the president’s nominee if first they got to tell him who it was. But Obama’s never been willing to meet Republicans halfway.”