Editorial: NC senators: Uphold your oath, do your job, act on Supreme Court nomination

Posted March 30, 2016 4:23 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2016 1:50 p.m. EDT

House Speaker Thom Tillis

North Carolina's U.S. senators need to do their job and vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

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A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, March 23, 2016; Editorial 8008
The following editorial is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Let’s take North Carolina’s two U.S. senators at their word. “The American people deserve a voice in the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice,” says Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican seeking re-election this year.

“The Senate can confirm a nominee, we can reject a nominee, or we can simply choose to withhold consideration of the nomination all together so the American people can weigh in on this important decision,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, in last week’s national Republican Party address.

At issue is the confirmation of President Barack Obama’ nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland is a universally respected judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Scalia, who died on a hunting trip in Texas, was the standard-barer of the conservative Republican agenda on the court.

His replacement on the sharply divided court could likely have a major impact on several high-profile issues – from abortion, voting rights, corporate financing of political campaigns and more.

When Burr and Tillis became senators, they took an oath, swearing to support and defend the Constitution … bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” That Constitution calls on the president to “with the advice and consent of the Senate … appoint … judges of the Supreme Court.”

So, as Justice Scalia might point out, the Constitution is clear. It is the job of the president to appoint court justices and it is the job of senators to vote advice and consent. The Constitution doesn’t make exceptions for a period of time before elections. Nor does it say anywhere that the Senate may, as Tillis has dreamed up, “simply choose to withhold consideration of the nomination all together.”

A recent public opinion survey even showed a majority of North Carolinians want the vacancy on the high court filled this year.

Given Burr’s and Tillis’ desire to turn the presidential election into a national referendum on the next Supreme Court justice, would they be willing to stipulate that, if a Democrat is elected president, they will back whomever the new president nominates? It would certainly be logical to assume their answer is yes.

Simply, Burr, Tillis and the Senate’s Republican majority need to do the jobs they swore to the American people to do. Start now to conduct appropriate hearings and vote on Garland’s nomination. Election years don’t absolve senators from doing their constitutional duty.

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