Democrats seem intent on trying to make the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court a political issue to use against Republicans. What they really should do is join with Republicans in agreement with the position they, themselves have taken in the past: let the people decide the next justice with their votes for the next president – no matter who wins.
The American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice but President Obama and his liberal allies in Congress want to deny the public that voice.
We have a deeply divided country, voter anger is running high in both parties because of the growing sense that Washington politicians simply ignore the voice of the people.
Republicans, who deserve their share of the blame in stoking this anxiety, have at least recognized this is an opportunity to empower voters, while President Obama wants to deny them any say, any impact on this crucial issue.
His position, and the position of Senate Democrats, runs completely contrary to what they’ve said in the past. No less a Democrat than Vice President Joe Biden, when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1992 during a presidential election, said there should be no Supreme Court confirmations until after that election.
Senator Chuck Schumer, back in 2007, a full 18 months before President George W. Bush would leave office, in a speech to the American Constitution Society, thundered that no Supreme Court vacancies should be filled until after Bush left office.
Like the Republicans today, Schumer and the Democrats held the majority in the Senate back then.
Further, it’s worth noting that had a Supreme Court justice passed away on the same date in 2008 as Justice Scalia – February 13 – voters in 34 states plus the District of Columbia would’ve already cast votes in the Democratic primaries for president.
Let there be no illusions as to whether or not Mr. Schumer, the Democratic Leader Harry Reid, or any other Democrat for that matter would have even contemplated hearings for an individual put forward for nomination by President Bush.
Lest we forget, two members of that same Democratic Senate majority were in the midst of a hotly contested race for the White House, both poised to make history with a victory.
Does anyone think for a second that Senators Reid and Schumer would’ve done anything to deny either Barack Obama, as the first African-American president, or Hillary Clinton, as the first woman president, the opportunity to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that occurred during President Bush’s final year in office? As Martin Luther King would say, the lips of these Senators today now drip with hypocrisy.
President Obama has already placed two extremely liberal justices on the court, he will no doubt select someone who would ensure liberal domination of the court for the next generation.
As of now, the court is one vote away from restricting or eliminating Second Amendment rights, one vote away from allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to run amok, one vote away from further restricting or eliminating religious freedom altogether, one vote away from legalizing Partial Birth Abortion, one vote away from giving the IRS free rein to persecute innocent Americans for political purposes.
This is why Republicans such as Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others are right -- and should be strongly supported -- in their efforts to give the public a voice.
Let the people decide the next justice with their votes for the next president – whoever it is. Don’t deny them that right this close to what is sure to be an historic election, that will not only determine where the American people want their country to go but the direction they want their court to take.
Edwin "Ed" Meese III is a former U.S. Attorney General who served under President Reagan. He is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at the Heritage Foundation.
J. Kenneth Blackwell is a board member of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. He served as mayor of Cincinnati and as U.S. Human Rights Ambassador at the U.N.