Not only are Republicans refusing to consider any Obama appointment to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has even refused to commit to confirming a nominee put forth by the next president — you know, should that president be a Democrat. And for all the chatter about what this means for the future of the United States Supreme Court, I’d like to take a moment to consider what this means for the future of the US Senate.
If a Republican Senate majority sets a precedent by denying a Democratic president his constitutional authority to appoint a SCOTUS justice, then given a similar opportunity, a Democratic Senate majority must return the favor in kind. The failure to retaliate would only incentivize the Republicans to do this again and again, leaving them exclusive control over the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. So Democrats must vow to reject the nominees of all future Republican presidents.
And I don’t just mean during an election year — I mean ever.
Republicans must be made to understand that if they deny this president his right to appoint a justice to this particular Supreme Court seat, the Republicans will assure that no president with an opposition Senate will ever be able to appoint a justice again.
Sounds pretty dysfunctional, right? So given the current rules (whereby a single spiteful member can pretty much block any bill or motion from coming to a vote), how could such a pathologically partisan Senate ever hope to function again? Of course, it can’t. That’s why, should the Democrats regain control of the Senate this November, the first thing the new majority must do is eliminate the body’s longstanding super-majority rules. In other words, Democrats must choose the “nuclear option” and kill the filibuster.
And should the Republicans retain their majority in the face of a justifiably angry and indignant Democratic opposition, McConnell would have to be an idiot not to do the same.
Assuming the Republicans carry through on their pledge to block any Obama nomination, the filibuster is as good as dead.