With the presidential election just a week away and polls showing their nominee, Donald Trump losing bigly, GOP senators are walking back their promise to let the next president pick a new Supreme Court Justice.
Shortly after Justice Antonin Scalia died early this year, Republicans came out in droves and told the American people that they had no intention of allowing President Obama to fill the vacancy left on the Supreme Court. To excuse their despicable behavior, they said the "reason" they were doing it was because they believed voters should have a voice in filling the seat by choosing the next president.
But on Monday, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said that he is going to do everything possible to cripple the Supreme Court if the GOP's candidate does not win next week. “If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” he said.
This is the exact opposite of what he said when President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the court. Then, Burr said,“The American people deserve a voice in the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice. This appointment could easily tip the balance of the court in a direction not supported by the American people as evidenced by 2014’s election results giving Republicans both the Senate and House.”
Even more hypocritically, in 2005 Senator Burr said that an eight-person Supreme Court would destroy the court's effectiveness:
“If we are not able to produce a Justice out of this fine Hall, then they will meet with eight Justices. I have to believe there is an odd number of Justices for a very logical reason. It was so there would not be a tie. On a 4-to-4 tie, what happens? Seldom have we asked the question,” he said in a speech arguing for the appointment of a circuit court justice. “On a 4-to-4 tie in the Supreme Court, the lower court’s decision stands. That means all of a sudden the Supreme Court, our highest court, the Court we look to to be the best and brightest to interpret law and the Constitution, is insignificant in the process.”
Now, eleven years later, Burr is promising a constitutional crisis and he is not the only member of his party to do so.
Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was asked about the open seat on the Supreme Court and he responded that an eight-person court is perfectly fine:
“There will be plenty of time for debate on that issue, there is long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices, just recently Justice (Stephen) Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job, that’s a debate that we are going to have."
Cruz also previously said that he believed the people should have a voice in choosing the next Justice by voting for a new president when Garland was nominated.
Finally, last month Senator John McCain caused an uproar when he also vowed to block any appointee put forth by Hillary Clinton. The Arizona Senator later claimed he loves the Constitution and would never do such a thing.
The Supreme Court is supposed to provide a vital role in the checks and balances system that our forefathers enacted when they signed the Constitution. Partisan politics and political feuds are not supposed to ever have any impact on the Court, yet here we are. Because of the GOP's ridiculous games, our highest court has not been operating at full strength for almost a full year. We have been stuck with multiple split decisions and lost the opportunity to have important precedents set for future legal battles.
Every American should remember this when they cast their ballots in this election and ask themselves,"Do I really want to elect people who have no respect for the democracy we have worked so hard to build?" If the answer is no, the down ballot choices are very clear. We must not allow this attack on the very foundations our country to continue.