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Senators, let nominee be heard

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Washington, April 18, 2016 | Sean Magers (202-225-5076) | comments
Senate Republicans, by refusing to do their jobs and work to fill our current Supreme Court vacancy, have shown a fair-weather, bandwagon love for the Constitution.
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As appeared online in the Albany Times Union on Monday, April 18, 2016; written by Rep. Paul Tonko

Pop quiz.

Question one: For how many years are presidents elected in one term? This is not a trick question.

Question two: How many years ago was President Barack Obama re-elected? This, also, is not a trick question.

End of quiz.

If the answer to the first question is a larger number than the answer to the second question, the U.S. Senate is required to do its job and provide a hearing and a simple up-or-down vote on D.C Circuit Court Chief Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The president fulfilled his constitutional duty last month by nominating Garland. Now it's the Senate's turn to do its job. The average time from nomination to confirmation for a Supreme Court nominee since 1975 is 67 days.

The longest wait ever for a nominee, from the time it was received to the time it received a vote, is 125 days.

Obama nominated Garland on March 17, a full 311 days before his term expires on Jan. 20.

What the Senate is doing by refusing to hold even a hearing on Garland's nomination is a historic show of obstructionism that continues to keep congressional approval ratings in the cellar.

Keeping the Supreme Court at an even number all but paralyzes one third of the federal government.

No one is demanding that the Republican-led Senate rubber stamp anyone Obama nominates. The majority of the public is, however, asking that senators fulfill their oath of office and provide a fair hearing to this nominee.

Even when controversial nominees are sent to the Senate, they have always received a hearing and a vote, if they weren't withdrawn by the president who nominated them. In 1987, Reagan nominee Robert Bork was rejected in the Senate by a 58-42 vote, but he received his first public hearing from the Senate 70 days after he was nominated.

If Garland receives full and fair hearings and loses a confirmation vote, then democracy has worked and the Senate will have completed its obligation to those it serves. That is the way our country should work, not the "no way, no how" mantra of the Senate majority leader and his team.

Garland has demonstrated he possesses the wisdom, fairness, expertise and dedication to the Constitution to be an exceptional Supreme Court justice. Senate Republicans, by refusing to do their jobs and work to fill our current Supreme Court vacancy, have shown a fair-weather, bandwagon love for the Constitution.

Both sides of the aisle have long recognized Garland's outstanding judicial qualifications. He has garnered bipartisan praise as a consensus builder for years — earning a robust, bipartisan 76-23 confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court. In fact, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Garland a "consensus nominee" for the Supreme Court, and asserted that Garland "would be very well supported by all sides."

Senate Republicans' radical and extreme refusal to consider any Supreme Court nominee of the president — even when that nominee has impeccable qualifications and has already won overwhelming, bipartisan support — is both reckless and completely unprecedented.

In what other job in the country do you get to say "no" when asked to do your job?

Instead of playing political games, Senate Republicans need to follow the Constitution and do their jobs.

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Tags: Judiciary

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