Commentary, News

Message to Burr and Tillis: Another NC poll shows strong support for moving ahead with Scalia replacement

As Senators Burr and Tillis continue their pledge to stonewall, add the High Point University Poll to the growing list showing strong support among North Carolinians for ending the U.S. Senate blockade of Obama Supreme Court nominations. This is from an HPU release from yesterday:

“A new High Point University Poll finds that majorities of North Carolina residents believe that President Obama should nominate and the U.S. Senate should consider replacements for Justice Antonin Scalia, the recently deceased Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, before the end of Obama’s presidency. The poll also reported North Carolinians’ job approval ratings for public officials and legislatures.

When asked whether President Obama should nominate a replacement, 60 percent of those polled said yes. The poll also asked whether the U.S. Senate should consider President Obama’s nominee – keeping in mind that the U.S. Senate’s Majority Leader had said that the next president rather than President Obama should nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia. Sixty-eight percent of North Carolinians said that the U.S. Senate should consider any nominee.

North Carolinians appeared to be following relatively closely the story of Justice Scalia’s death and President Obama’s decision to nominate a replacement for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Fifty-four percent of the survey respondents said they had heard a lot about the story.

‘Over half of the poll participants indicated closely following the passing of Justice Scalia,’ says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. ‘The poll confirms that North Carolinians are supportive of President Obama nominating a replacement. In addition, almost 70 percent are in agreement that the U.S. Senate should consider any nominee of the current administration.’”

Click here for more details.

The High Point poll comes just a week after pollsters at Elon University found similar results.

Commentary

Editorial: Senate’s Supreme Court obstructionism is “historic mistake”

Another good one this morning from the editorial page at the Greensboro News & Record slamming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Richard “I lost my blue slip” Burr and Thom “I flip-flopped so fast you probably didn’t even notice” Tillis on their outrageous refusal to consider any Obama Supreme Court nominee:

“This stand defies the constitutional duty to give “advice and consent.” The Constitution assigns this role to the Senate to provide a check on a president’s power. The Senate can withhold its consent when it concludes a nominee isn’t qualified. But McConnell and other Republicans, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, fail in their responsibility to advise when they refuse to consider any nominee.

Tillis warned last week that Republicans would “fall into the trap of obstructionism” if they rejected any nominee “sight unseen.” This week, he walked into the trap. The entire GOP caucus has followed its leader along this dangerous path. It won’t lead anywhere good.

The reasons McConnell cites to justify obstructionism don’t wash. He says the American people should resolve the deadlock in the November election. But the voters re-elected Obama in 2012 to serve until Jan. 20, 2017. McConnell ignores that election.”

And, as the conclusion notes, this latest blockade is just one of many such inexcusable exercises:

“McConnell already has slowed the pace on all confirmations, whether for lower federal judgeships or other federal positions.

‘In 2015, the Senate confirmed 173 total civilian nominees, according to the Congressional Research Service, about 100 fewer than were confirmed in 2007 when a Democratic Senate took over during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency,’ Burgess Everett wrote for Politico last month.

Republicans point to past offenses by Democrats, which were inexcusable, but they have escalated obstructionism to an unprecedented level. It’s bound to be repeated in the future, unless voters hold the obstructionists accountable in Senate elections. In North Carolina, Burr is on the ballot this year.

It’s easy to see straight through McConnell, an ‘establishment’ Republican who’s been faulted by his party’s extreme right wing for accommodating Obama too often. The critics have wanted McConnell to block every one of Obama’s initiatives instead of only most of them and to confirm none of his nominees.

Now, McConnell is yielding to the worst impulses of partisan politics, even if it means keeping a Supreme Court seat empty for years. History will remember.”

Commentary

As Tillis flip-flops, nearly 200 editorials across the nation criticize Supreme Court blockade

Veteran attorney Glenn Sugameli of the group Defenders of Wildlife has been keeping track of the newspaper editorials across the country that have spoken against the blockade of any Obama Supreme Court nominee. His findings are remarkable. As of yesterday, 191 editorials had weighed in against the absurd roadblock (i.e. the one that North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis officially joined yesterday after previously saying he would do no such thing).
Click here to see Sugamelli’s comprehensive, state-by-state list and here to read the latest editorial on the subject from Raleigh’s News & Observer. As the N&O rightfully point out:

“For all their avowed reverence for the Constitution’s language, the Republican senators are making a deliberately distorted reading of its directive. Not only does their stance reject a clause of the Constitution, their justification casts doubt on the system the Constitution constructs and protects. They are questioning the democratic legitimacy of the president and doubting the ability of the democratic system to withstand the pressures of both a presidential election and hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. With that, they dismiss the authority and the resiliency of American democracy.

By failing to cooperate with the constitutional mandate, Republican senators are elevating destructive obstruction over constructive process and claiming full responsibility for the gridlock that has hindered the nation’s progress throughout most of Obama’s tenure. They are also impairing the function of the Supreme Court, leaving it unable to resolve 4-4 votes. And finally, and most dangerously, they are openly politicizing the high court and destroying public confidence in its independent and objective interpretation of the law.”

Finally, as for the contention of those, like N&O contributor J. Peder Zane, that the election will take care of the matter, it’s worth noting that there is far from any guarantee that this is so. If Republicans retain control of the Senate, what’s to stop them from blocking a Clinton or Sanders nominee for two or four more years? Won’t they be able to argue that “the voters have spoken” by putting them back in charge of the confirmation process?

The bottom line: Try as they might to spin their outrageous dereliction of duty as a defense of democracy, the plain truth is that it is precisely the opposite.

News

Senate refuses to hold any hearings on Scalia replacement until after Obama leaves office

TillisSenator Thom Tillis and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee dug in their heels Tuesday – delivering a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlining their determination not to hold hearings on anyone President Barack Obama might nominate to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Committee notes the Senate has the power to grant or withhold consent of the President’s nominee:

senate-letter

McConnell later told reporters that he accepts that recommendation and his chamber will take no action.

President Obama has indicated he will put forth an ‘indisputably qualified’ nominee to fill the seat in the coming weeks.

Read the full letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Also be sure to read Rob Schofield’s weekly briefing: Yet another absurd Burr blockade.

Commentary

Thom Tillis’ disingenuous “opposition” to the obstruction of an Obama Supreme Court nominee

Thom_Tillis_official_portraitIt looks like the advice of political pros has begun to sink in with national GOP leaders and they’re starting to back off slightly from their absurd “no way, no how” stance when it comes to considering an Obama Supreme Court nominee in 2016. How else to explain the fact that they’ve allowed a junior, non-lawyer backbencher like North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis to publicly express the concern that his Republican colleagues shouldn’t go down the road of becoming “obstructionists” when it comes to a nomination?

Of course, as welcome as Tillis’ change of tone is, it still falls well short of being truthful and/or helpful for at least two big reasons.

Number One is that despite expressing concerns about not even considering an Obama nominee, Tillis went on to make clear that he still favors what can only be called obstruction. According to the senator, unless the President essentially nominates the second coming of Antonin Scalia, “we’ll use every device available to block that nomination.” In other words, Tillis’ isn’t really opposed to obstruction of a nominee — just the appearance of it.

Number Two is the blatant hypocrisy of Tillis’ stance. You see, despite his professed concerns about being an obstructionist, that is actually the only way one can fairly characterize what the senator has been ever since he arrived in Washington last January and somehow managed to wangle an appointment to the Judiciary Committee. As the good folks at People for the American Way, the Center for American Progress, Defenders of Wildlife and many other groups have been documenting for years, Senate Republicans have been obstructing Obama court appointees with such regularity that the whole thing has long since descended into farce.

Throughout the country, dozens of important federal judicial slots stand vacant — many for years — all because GOP senators won’t consider and confirm nominees at a reasonable pace. Heck, here in North Carolina, the vacancy in the Eastern District federal court is so old that the Obama administration has given up on even appointing someone. It’s so bad and so ridiculous that the delays of month and years have even occurred for nominees who have ended up getting confirmed unanimously. If Tillis is so concerned about being an obstructionist, why has it taken him 13 months to speak out — especially when he serves on the committee that does most of the obstructing?

The bottom line: Let’s hope Tillis’ statement heralds a real change in the senator’s behavior and that of his colleagues, but given his record and absent genuine action anytime soon, it’s safe to assume that the new stance is all for show.