Just because it’s Justice Scalia

I’ve been observing many responses by Republicans and conservatives to the question of why President Obama should not nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Perhaps the most common response is an echo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said (while Scalia’s body was still warm), “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

But what McConnell failed to recognize is that the American people already had a voice. Shortly after electing Obama in 2008, the president nominated two justices to the Supreme Court. This made it clear to the American people that the president is responsible for filling vacancies on the bench. With that in mind, they proceeded to reelect Obama by a large majority.

The other most common response I have observed is that Obama should not nominate a replacement because the justice who died is Scalia. Then the person follows that response up by lauding Scalia. They not only extol Scalia legally but also politically, intellectually, and personally. They warrant that Scalia’s individual characteristics preclude Obama from nominating his replacement. Presumably this is because Obama is too liberal to replace such an influential conservative.

I read Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States. It clearly states that the President shall nominate Judges of the Supreme Court. It gives no conditions under which the Senate should not perform its obligation to advise and consent the president on his (or her) nomination. If the Senate does not consent to Obama’s nomination by vote, then that nominee should not become a Supreme Court Justice. But the Senate has a duty to at least vote to give consent on Obama’s nomination because each senator vowed to uphold the Constitution.

The Constitution does not make any exceptions to this duty based on a vacating Supreme Court justice’s individual characteristics. It does not say that conservative justices should only be replaced by conservative presidents and liberal justices by liberal presidents. It says nothing about justices who are constitutional originalists, have wit & good humor, are hunters, or have great legal intellect (in fact, the Constitution does not include any legal education, license, or experience in the qualifications for Supreme Court justice).

Thoroughly read the Constitution. You will find that it does not say that President Obama can fill David Souter’s and John Paul Stevens’ places on the bench but replacing Justice Antonin Scalia alone is exempt. The specific justice leaving the Supreme Court has no relevancy whatsoever to a president’s obligation to nominate his or her successor.