Scalia replacement: One step at a time (Whipple)

The editorial re the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia (Feb. 15) characterizes the declared intention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block the nomination of Scalia’s successor until the next president takes office as “crass politics that puts partisan self-interest before the effective functioning of one of the nation’s most important institutions.” Fill the Scalia vacancy promptly, therefore, lest a 4-4 stalemate develop on the high court that would (gasp) “allow lower court decisions to stand.”

I would agree that Republicans don’t need to draw a line in the sand at this point. Why assume the president will seek to replace Justice Scalia with an ultra liberal, thereby immediately casting the GOP in an obstructionist role?

On the other hand, the president has a responsibility to act responsibly in this situation. If he chooses to nominate someone who conservatives distrust, then Senate Republicans will have every right to block the nomination.

As for the reference to “a time when the confirmation process was faster and less nakedly partisan,” remember Senator Chuck Schumer’s statement in July 2007 that absent “extraordinary circumstances,” the Senate should not confirm any Supreme Court justice nominated by President Bush in his remaining 19 [actually 18] months in office. The situation never arose, but if it had Schumer would probably have sought to back his words with action.

William Whipple III

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