Editorials and Opinion
Quick Takes: Republicans and the Constitution (Washington Monthly, 07/15/16)
Nancy Letourneau: "One of the deep ironies of our time is how conservatives have branded themselves as the great defenders of the U.S. Constitution and yet, almost daily, we have to wonder if they have any idea what is actually in it ... For example:
'Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) made repeated requests Wednesday to confirm a batch of Obama’s judicial nominees who are ready for votes. Each time they tried, Tillis objected and suggested the Senate shouldn’t be spending time on judges.
“What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs,” he said. “I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters.”'
Perhaps someone needs to read Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution to Sen. Tillis. Just sayin…"
GOP Senator: Confirming Judges Has 'Nothing To Do With Doing Our Jobs (Talking Points Memo, 07/15/16)
CAITLIN MACNEAL: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) does not think that it's part of the Senate's job description to confirm President Obama's judicial nominees.
"What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs," he said, according to the Huffington Post. "I'm doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters."
In fact, only the Senate can confirm judicial nominees in order to complete the process of filling court vacancies."
Judge Garland a role model (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 07/15/16)
Elaine Tyrie, Letter to the Editor: "I urge leaders in the Senate to forward hearings and vote of Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for Supreme Court justice, with the same regard for public service as Merrick Garland has."
Will someone please direct Senator Thom Tillis to Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution? (New Republic Online, 07/15/16)
Saif Alnuweiri: "“What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs,” he said, following calls by Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono to approve judges awaiting confirmation. “I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters.” But Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2, of the Constitution clearly states that the responsibility of filling empty court seat lies with the Senate.
And what those pressing matters are appear to be unclear. Tillis has not found the time to oversee a replacement judge in a district court in his state, one that has been vacant for over a decade."
Unhappy reality on Supreme Court (Seacoastonline [Southern ME & NH], 07/15/16)
Gary Patton: "As I write this letter, 110 days have elapsed since the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. During this time U.S. Senate Republicans, including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte, have blocked any action on Garland's nomination. In the history of the United States, 139 Supreme Court nominees have been confirmed or rejected by the Senate in 110 days.
The failure by Senate Republicans, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to hold hearings and vote Garland up or down has left the Court with only eight justices, raising the possibility of four-to-four split votes which would leave the legal question under consideration unanswered.
Unfortunately, this unhappy possibility has become a reality three times"
EDITORIAL: Objection!: Ginsburg should have kept her counsel on Trump (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 07/15/16)
"There are now eight rather than nine working justices since the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February. President Barack Obama, acting in his constitutional role, nominated Judge Merrick Garland in March to succeed Justice Scalia. The Republicans in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have refused to consider Judge Garland’s nomination until after the election, ... . This partisan maneuver, with no constitutional justification, has left the Supreme Court short one justice and ideologically deadlocked on some issues."
Benched! Own Job Description Eludes Senator Tillis (Justice Watch, 07/15/16)
"But for Thom Tillis, the Republican Senator from North Carolina and member of the Judiciary Committee, the problem appears to be (for better or worse) an alarming amount of misinformation, whether it be the importance of filling judicial vacancies, how bad the vacancy crisis has become under GOP leadership, or the Senate’s basic constitutional duty to confirm judges....Tillis objected to voting on slate of uncontroversial judicial nominees because, in his words, confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs.”... Tillis added insult to injury during the Judiciary Committee’s business meeting yesterday, when he defended the GOP majority’s dismal record on judicial confirmations. Tillis first repeated the already-debunked Republican talking point that more judges have been confirmed under President Obama than under President George W. Bush at this point in their respective presidencies. ... What matters is not just the number of confirmed judges, but that Obama has confronted far more vacancies than Bush faced, and that Obama’s judges have been confirmed at a lower rate. While Obama has so far been tasked with filling 410 vacancies, Bush only faced 377 vacancies throughout his entire two terms.
Tillis also argued that the number of vacancies is just not that high. That is patently false. Vacancies have increased from 43 to 83 just this Congress. Obama has roughly twice as many vacancies as George W. Bush at this same point in their respective presidencies ... Perhaps Tillis’ belief that filling judicial vacancies is not part of his job explains why the nation’s oldest vacancy is in his home state of North Carolina. Judge Malcolm Howard took senior status nearly 4,000 days ago"
Republican senator: Confirming judges has 'nothing to do with doing our jobs' (Daily Kos, 07/15/16)
Joan McCarter: "Well, thanks for clearing that up, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).... It would also come as news to the founding fathers, as [Sen.] Warren pointed out. "I'm not sure what version of the Constitution you're reading that doesn't say confirming judges is part of your job in the United States Senate," she told Tillis."
Inspiring: This Man Became a U.S. Senator Without Reading the Constitution (INDY Week [NC], 07/15/16)
Paul Blest: "U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is tired of being told to do his job, which is remarkable considering he doesn't seem to have any idea of what his job entails.
On Wednesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii tried to confirm a batch of President Obama's judicial nominees. Luckily, our esteemed Senator from North Carolina heroically stopped them. From the Huffington Post: ...'Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin later declined to clarify to HuffPost why Tillis said it isn’t the Senate’s job to confirm judges.' ... Thom. Daniel. Here's what the Constitution says ... "
Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 152 (Daily Kos, 07/14/16)
Joan McCarter: "The reason President Obama has had more judges confirmed overall than his predecessor is because there have been so many more vacancies to fill during his tenure. Right now, there are 89 vacancies in federal courts. At this point in George W. Bush's term, there were less than half as many, around 40. There might be a few pushed through under McConnell, because he has plenty of Republicans who would like to have the confirmations in their own states to tout.
But as of now, McConnell's desire to thwart Obama at every turn seems to be overcoming his desire to help his own team. Consider a nomination in Utah, where "the senior […] senator said he is bending McConnell's ear, trying to secure a confirmation vote for Russell. But McConnell has been noncommittal to Hatch, simply responding: 'We'll see,' according to the senator's retelling."
Helluva way to run a country."
Tillis: Confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs” (Progressive Pulse [NC], 07/14/16)
Commentary by Rob Schofield: "Sometimes it is almost beyond belief that Thom Tillis serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. That same thought must’ve been running through the minds of a lot of his fellow senators yesterday afternoon when Tillis took to the Senate floor to block a bundle of federal court nominations who would have filled vacancies that are causing backups in the courts. Many of them passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously.
Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record reports:
“Tillis objected that the Senate shouldn’t be forced to do ‘things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs’ while action is needed on important matters like Zika, veterans, drug addiction and defense funding.
Which prompted Democrat Elizabeth Warren to question what part of the Constitution says that confirming judges isn’t the Senate’s job." ... As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted on Twitter, Tillis’ position is, in a word, “crazy.”... Tillis and his blockading conservative colleagues are simply not doing their jobs in 2016 when it come to their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominations (including the nomination of the eminently qualified Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court) and it’s simply an embarrassment. Unfortunately, Tillis is so uninformed with respect to his constitutional duties that he doesn’t even grasp how wildly off-base he has strayed."
Our completely inept Congress (The Hill, 07/14/16)
Daniel R. DePetris, contributor: "Nor has the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, four months since President Obama nominated him to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Whether we would like to blame it on a hypertension-inducing election season or good old-fashioned partisanship, the result is the same: a legislative branch that is completely inept at a time when very important issues are on the docket."
The Senate’s Unearned Vacation (Huffington Post, 07/14/16)
Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club: "there’s no more blatant shirking going on than the Senate’s failure to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. The end of this week will mark 120 days since Judge Garland was nominated to the highest court in the land. Yet Senate Republicans have categorically refused to hold a hearing on his nomination. ... six Supreme Court nominees have been confirmed in the final year of a presidential term.
The Supreme Court needs nine justices. Period. The Constitution is clear: The president nominates the justices, and the Senate provides “Advice and Consent.” By hindering the ability of the Supreme Court to function, Senate Republicans are holding our government hostage. Once the president has submitted a nominee, refusing to hold a hearing is partisan politics at its worst.
These are momentous times for the United States, and a functional judicial branch is imperative. At stake are nothing less than the clean air, clean water, and climate action safeguards that we have fought for decades to secure"
GOP Senator: Confirming Obama’s Judges Has ‘Nothing To Do With Doing Our Jobs’: It is literally the Senate’s job to confirm judges. (Huffington Post, 07/14/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "Republicans have never made it easy for President Barack Obama to confirm judges. But Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) came up with a new reason the Senate shouldn’t be filling empty court seats: It’s not our job.
Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) made repeated requests Wednesday to confirm a batch of Obama’s judicial nominees who are ready for votes. Each time they tried, Tillis objected and suggested the Senate shouldn’t be spending time on judges.
“What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs,” he said. “I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters.”
It’s a weird thing to say since it is literally the Senate’s job to confirm judges, as spelled out in the Constitution. It’s also ironic that Tillis is the one saying this, given that he’s overseeing the longest federal court vacancy in the country. There’s been an empty seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for 3,848 days, or 10.5 years.
Democrats seemed perplexed by Tillis’ rationale.
“I’m not sure what version of the Constitution you’re reading that doesn’t say confirming judges is part of your job in the United States Senate,” Warren said.
“Of course confirming judges is part of the Senate’s job,” Hirono said. “In fact, only the Senate can do that.”... At least 24 judicial nominees are ready for votes. None are controversial, and all have bipartisan support. In fact, 23 of them were confirmed unanimously by the Judiciary Committee, of which Tillis is a member.... because the Senate has been moving so slowly to fill them, court vacancies have been skyrocketing. Cases are getting backed up for years and judges are burning out trying to keep up. Even some Republicans are urging their leadership to let nominees get votes."
The Republican Senate leader and regular order (The Hill, 07/14/16)
Carl Tobias: "in early January 2015, Senator McConnell promised to return regular order in the Senate. That month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley also vowed that the panel would follow regular order when processing judicial nominees.... McConnell has drastically slowed the pace of final debates, if needed, and chamber votes. Indeed, the Senate has confirmed merely twenty nominees, averaging one per month since Republicans assumed the majority. This sharply contrasts with the 68 judges whom the Democratic Senate majority helped confirm in President George W. Bush’s last two years.
The number of vacancies has doubled from forty to eighty, while the number of emergencies has soared from twelve to as high as 34 and is now 29. There are currently two circuit nominees and eighteen district nominees awaiting up or down votes. The Judiciary Committee approved all of the district nominees without dissent, and GOP home state senators recommended eleven of the eighteen nominees.... Republican leaders can begin to remedy the vacancy crisis and restore regular order by granting all nominees on the floor yes or no votes before departing for the summer recess."
Supreme Court vacancy debate should be realistic (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 07/13/16)
Zuiko Redding, guest columnist: "I read Steven Calabresi’s guest column with alarm and a bit of confusion and disgust .... Calabresi says that replacing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with Merrick Garland would: result in ... impossible outcomes"
Another judicial candidate deserves a nomination hearing (WIZM [WI], 07/13/16)
Program Director, Scott Robert Shaw: "The delays in holding nomination hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland have been well documented. Garland was nominated to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia back in March. But the Senate refuses to even hold nomination hearings to consider his credentials, despite the fact that Garland has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in history. But that delay in holding hearings is nothing compared to the delay in holding hearings for a vacancy on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals which serves Wisconsin. Donald Schott was nominated to fill the vacancy on that court back in January. There should be some sense of urgency on the part of our U.S. Senate to get this post filled. It has been vacant for more than six years, a total of 2400 days and counting. That is despite the fact that Schott's nomination is endorsed by both Wisconsn Senators, and a bipartisan group of former Wisconsin State Bar Presidents. The Senate Judiciary Committee has finally held a hearing and approved the nomination with bipartisan support. But still the Senate is refusing to schedule hearings. Schott deserves a fair shot, and the people of Wisconsin deserve a fully staffed court. Because the courts can't fully do their jobs until our Senators do theirs."
EDITORIAL: Moran's shift: U.S. senator plays politics by engaging in GOP races. (Garden City Telegram [KS], 07/13/16)
Editorial by Editor and Publisher Dena Sattler: "U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran ... regardless of why or how it’s happened, it’s unfortunate to watch Moran, once viewed as more of a centrist, gravitate to the far right.
His recent flip-flop over whether the U.S. Senate should address President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — Moran correctly called for senators to move forward with hearings, then fell in line with tea-party obstructionism and reversed his position — was a prime example."
Senate has confirmed enough judges, Tillis says (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 07/13/16)
Editorial writer Doug Clark's blog: "U.S. Senate Democrats tried to push 16 judicial nominees to confirmation this afternoon but were denied by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis.
Tillis objected that the Senate shouldn't be forced to do "things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs"... Which prompted Democrat Elizabeth Warren to question what part of the Constitution says that confirming judges isn't the Senate's job.
Warren was joined by fellow Democrats Chuck Schumer and Mazie Hirono in trying to break a logjam before the Senate goes into its long summer recess.... Schumer pointed out that the number of judicial vacancies is much greater than those a Democratic Senate left in the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency.... as Hirono said, the pending nominees are noncontroversial, having been approved by a voice vote in the Judiciary Committee (of which Tillis is a member). Furthermore, many were nominated before 2016."
COLUMN: Why yes, I do have all the answers (Journal Gazette/Times-Courier [IL], 07/12/16)
Penny Weaver, the editor of the JG-TC: "Congress needs to give Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court a vote. The president did his job and put forth a nomination; Congress is extremely remiss in not even allowing a vote on Merrick Garland. Frankly, the Republicans are just being jerks."
Reproachable record: What Toomey's been up to (Bucks County Courier Times [PA], 07/12/16)
Wayne Kroger, Guest Opinion: "Last July, Toomey said that he was "delighted" that Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo's nomination for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit was finally reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This could have occurred months prior to that if Toomey hadn't refused to submit the so-called "blue slip" to move Restrepo's nomination out of the Committee – even though the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts declared a "judicial emergency" for appeals out of Pennsylvania. When asked about the delay, Toomey told a reporter "I've got to run for this lunch" and ducked into an elevator.... Toomey also supports the filibuster of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court,"
Editorial: Confirm Judge Koh to the 9th Circuit (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 07/11/16)
"Nearly five months after President Obama nominated her to fill an emergency vacancy on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Lucy Haeran Koh is scheduled for her Senate hearing Wednesday. This is welcome news after months of partisan division over judicial appointments.... Koh was the first Asian American federal judge in the Bay Area.
Koh has proved herself an accomplished, moderate, evenhanded judge who would bring necessary diversity to the Ninth Circuit. Justice is best delivered by maintaining a full court. Koh deserves Senate confirmation, and quickly."
Before SCOTUS Blockade, This GOP Senator Wanted Obama To Hurry Up And Fill Federal Vacancies: Ron Johnson said last year that presidents should fill vacancies within 210 days. (Huffington Post, 07/11/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) won’t help to advance President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.... But before the Supreme Court seat opened up this year, the senator considered filling federal vacancies to be more urgent. In June 2015, when the Senate was debating the National Defense Authorization Act, Johnson offered an amendment underscoring that Obama should have to fill federal posts within 210 days of a vacancy opening up.... Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. That means, by Johnson’s metric, the Senate should be voting to fill the seat before Sept. 10.... Speaking of judges: The Wisconsin senator is also behind the longest circuit court vacancy in the country."
The Senate risks Election Day chaos: Imagine a Trump-Clinton standoff and a 4-4 Supreme Court (New York Daily News, 07/11/16)
Prof. Burt Neuborne: "By refusing to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Senate is foisting an eight-member court on the nation — and risking an equally divided court that’s unable to resolve what could be explosive electoral fights, with the presidency hanging in the balance.
Imagine what the nation and world would have looked like in 2000 with an eight-person Supreme Court.... In short, apart from being a failure to carry out its clear constitutional duty, the Senate’s irresponsible refusal even to consider Garland’s nomination risks constitutional, economic and civil crisis."
Grassley Bogs Down Entire Judiciary, Not Just Supreme Court (Iowa Starting Line, 07/10/16)
Pat Rynard: "For those who have been watching Senator Chuck Grassley’s tenure as the new chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his Supreme Court blockade wasn’t a big surprise. It was merely the culmination of a clear trend of obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nominees to all levels of the judiciary.... this also adds to Grassley’s historic level of obstruction on all judicial appointments. Just 20 lower court nominees from President Obama have actually been confirmed by the Senate since Grassley’s chairmanship began. By mid-June in 2008, Senator Leahy and the Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed 49.
As one would expect, that’s caused a considerable amount of problems for the proper functioning of the judicial branch of government. It means heavier caseloads for the judges already in place and a delay of justice for those in a backlogged system. After Grassley took over the Judiciary Committee, the number of judicial vacancies have nearly doubled, from 43 to 83. Meanwhile, Obama’s nominees are playing the waiting game. 54 judicial nominees are on Grassley’s plate, yet over half of them haven’t even gotten a hearing or vote scheduled."
Watch Elizabeth Warren Relentlessly Push The Senate To Confirm Judges: The Massachusetts Democrat mocked Republicans for leaving courts empty for Donald Trump to fill. (Huffington Post, 07/08/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "Judicial nominees are piling up in the Senate as Republicans refuse to confirm them, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has had it.
Warren tore into the GOP on Thursday for exacerbating a judicial vacancy crisis, and repeatedly tried to force the Senate to confirm 17 judicial nominees stalled on the Senate floor. ... court vacancies are skyrocketing, judges are burning out and the federal judiciary is being stretched to its limits.... The Senate could confirm all 17 nominees in a matter of minutes, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow votes to be held. Every single one of nominees has bipartisan support, and if confirmed, they would make an appreciable dent in the nation’s current 89 federal court vacancies. But when Warren formally requested that the Senate hold votes, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected. Warren went back to the microphone and tried again, this time calling for votes on nominees who have been waiting since last year. When Cornyn shut her down again, she kept at it, insisting that at least the nominees who have been waiting for longer than a year should get votes."
Nation's legal system needs full Supreme Court (USA Today, 07/08/16)
Miriam Seifter: "Since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the eight-justice court has struggled to do its job. This is a problem that affects the entire judiciary.
The court's struggle is evident in the way it has decided — or failed to decide — numerous cases over the past few months. ...These deadlocks and remands underscore the need for a full Supreme Court.... This is a role that the entire Senate, including Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, must take seriously.
An eight-justice court that cannot reach decisions on important questions does a disservice to the legal system.... The Senate, including Johnson, is an integral part of ensuring our country's legal system continues to function properly. That is why they should confirm a consensus-building, thoughtful judge such as Garland to the Supreme Court. Any further delay harms our courts and the rule of law."