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Thom Tillis: No need to consider Supreme Court nominees once presidential primary season commences

TillisThe laugh-out-loud justifications for the U.S. Senate’s absurd blockade of President Obama’s eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland just keep on a comin’ from GOP senators. Yesterday, it was North Carolina’s own Thom “flip-flop” Tillis who proffered a new and creative explanation.

Tillis, who originally made noises about not obstructing a nominee before being summarily silenced and forced to sign a pledge reversing that position by Mitch McConnell and other GOP senate leaders, told a group of Campbell University faculty gathered yesterday at the university’s law school in Raleigh that there was no sense in attempting to proceed with the consideration of Supreme Court nominees once the presidential primary season is underway.

We are not making this up. For those of you who may have already forgotten, this year’s first major presidential contest took place in Iowa on February 1. And even if, for some reason, Tillis was only referring to primaries (Iowa, remember, is a caucus state) the New Hampshire primary took place the very next week on February 8. And, of course, as a practical matter, “primary season” commenced long before the first actual vote as candidates had been beating a path to Iowa and New Hampshire for years. Antonin Scalia died on February 13.

This means that, by any rational reading of the senator’s announced standard, presidential nominations to fill Supreme Court vacancies are now off the table for at least a full year (and probably much longer) prior to the end of a president’s term. This is, of course, utterly insane.

As the speaker at today’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon, UNC law professor Michael Gehardt, wrote in a recent column critiquing a similar excuse from a Pennsylvania senator, Tillis would take our country down an illogical and dangerous road:

“The position staked out by Toomey [Tillis] and his party leadership finds no support in our Constitution, in history, or in logic.

The Constitution directs the president to nominate and appoint Justices with the advice and consent of the Senate.

It does not mention the American people. Nor has the Senate ever done anything like this before. More than 20 presidents have successfully made Supreme Court appointments during presidential election years or as lame ducks.

In the last 100 years, the Senate has taken action on every pending Supreme Court nomination, except on two occasions when presidents withdrew their nominations.

Last, Toomey [Tillis] seems to ignore the fact that the American people spoke in 2012, when they gave President Barack Obama over 65 million votes.

Only one presidential candidate has ever received more: Obama in 2008.

If Toomey [Tillis] really wanted to give the American people a voice in the decision, holding public hearings on Judge Garland would be an excellent way to do so.”

Unfortunately, as Tillis made clear yesterday, he has no intention of doing any such thing.

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