On February 23, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined other GOP leaders in declaring his intention to refuse consideration of any person President Barack Obama nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's February 13 death. Iowa newspaper editorial boards have criticized Grassley and other Senate Republicans' obstructionism, writing that it's “wrong,” it's “shameful,” and it “disrespects the Constitution.”
Grassley Defends GOP's Refusal To Hold Nomination Hearings
USA Today: Grassley Declares Senate Judiciary Committee Will Not Hold Hearings For President Obama's Supreme Court Nominee. On February 23, USA Today reported that GOP leaders announced they “will refuse to even meet with anyone that President Obama nominates” to the Supreme Court. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley released a letter from the committee's Republican members “saying that they do not intend to hold a hearing on any Obama nominee, let alone a vote” :
Top Senate Republicans said Tuesday that they will refuse to even meet with anyone that President Obama nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, released a copy of a letter Tuesday from all of the panel's Republicans to [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell saying that they do not intend to hold a hearing on any Obama nominee, let alone a vote.
“Because our decision is based on constitutional principle and born of a necessity to protect the will of the American people, this committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on January 20, 2017,” the letter states.
McConnell told reporters that he agrees that there should be no hearing. [USA Today, 2/23/16]
The Des Moines Register: Grassley “Has Vacillated In The Past Week Over Whether He Would Consider An Obama Nominee” For Supreme Court. According to a February 23 article in The Des Moines Register, Sen. Grassley had changed his position on whether he would “consider an Obama nominee to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia” before making his February 23 announcement that the Judiciary Committee “would not hold confirmation hearings until after a new president take office in 2017” :
A White House invitation for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to discuss the current U.S. Supreme Current vacancy with President Barack Obama has so far gone unanswered.
Turning down the meeting would represent a break in protocol from two previous high court vacancies during Obama's presidency, when the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders attended Oval Office meetings.
Grassley, a Republican, is Iowa's senior senator and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He has vacillated in the past week over whether he would consider an Obama nominee to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, but he issued a letter on Tuesday saying the committee would not hold confirmation hearings until after a new president take office in 2017. [Des Moines Register, 2/23/16]
Iowa Editorial Boards Have Criticized Grassley's Obstructionism, Hypocrisy
Des Moines Register: Grassley, Senate Republicans' Supreme Court "Obstructionism" Is “Wrong.” A February 16 editorial in The Des Moines Register chastised Grassley and other Senate Republicans' “galling” refusal to “even consider” an Obama nominee, writing, “This could have been a 'profile in courage' moment,” yet Grassley “chose instead to disregard his constitutional duty by rejecting a nominee who hasn't even been named” :
There's only one explanation for this sort of obstructionism: Politics. The president is a Democrat, and the Senate is controlled by Republicans.
What makes the Republicans' effort all the more galling is that it flies in the face of their oft-professed, unwavering allegiance to the Constitution, a document that says the president “shall nominate,” with the “advice and consent of the Senate,” our Supreme Court justices. It doesn't say anything at all about these duties and obligations being suspended a year or so before each president is scheduled to leave office.
The GOP effort to block an Obama nominee from the court isn't about letting voters have their say, or respecting past precedent, or demonstrating strict adherence to the Constitution. In fact, it's precisely the opposite.
This could have been a “profile in courage” moment for Sen. Grassley. This was an opportunity for our senior senator to be less of a politician and more of a statesman. It was a chance for him to be principled rather than partisan.
He could have made it clear that he favors a Senate vote on the matter -- a move that still would enable Republicans to accept or reject the eventual nominee based on merit -- but he chose instead to disregard his constitutional duty by rejecting a nominee who hasn't even been named.
It's wrong. It's not unexpected, and it's not a surprise, but it's still wrong. [Des Moines Register, 2/16/15]
Telegraph Herald: “Disappointing” To Hear Grassley Echo Republican Presidential Candidates' Obstruction On Supreme Court Nominee. On February 17, the Telegraph Herald editorial board criticized Grassley for echoing rhetoric of Republican presidential hopefuls and called him out for arguing against similar threats from Democrats in 2008:
It was little surprise that the Republican presidential debate that evening [February 13] quickly turned to the sudden vacancy on the nation's highest court. It was a forum for all the candidates to say that the next president, not the current one, should be the one to nominate the successor to Scalia, a strong conservative voice on the court since 1986.
You would expect that opinion from six guys who hope to be that next president. However, it was disappointing to hear Republican leaders, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, echo those sentiments.
While Republicans say that it would be audacious for President Obama to make a nomination in the last year of his term, the Constitution says it is not only the president's right but his responsibility, just as it is the responsibility of the Senate to provide “advice and consent” on such appointments. It would be one thing if he had too little time remaining -- not enough for a normal confirmation process to run its course -- but his term has 11 months to go.
Coincidentally, in 2008, the final year of President George W. Bush's presidency, when Republicans were in the Senate minority, Grassley was among those complaining that Democrats were holding up confirmation of Bush's appointees to the federal bench.
Supreme Court appointments come with the presidency. Voters know that when they go to the polls. It's simple: If you want to control appointments to the Supreme Court, then win the presidency. Obama already did that. He was elected to serve four years this term, not three years and one month.
Obama should make his nomination(s) and see what happens. If Grassley and other Republicans block the process, they just might not like what happens on and after Election Day 2016. [Telegraph Herald, 2/17/16]
The Gazette: “Hard To Conclude” Grassley's Supreme Court Obstruction Is “Anything But Political Maneuvering Meant To Meet Partisan Objectives.” A February 20 Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial scolded Grassley for exploiting his position to force gridlock, “holding critical issues and institutions hostage” to meet “partisan objectives” :
Iowans deserve a full explanation if Grassley is considering sidestepping a Supreme Court nomination process spelled out in the Constitution in favor of leaving the court short-handed for nearly a year, or longer. McConnell and other Republicans have argued waiting until after the election would give Americans a voice in the pick, ignoring the fact Americans elected Obama in 2012 for a full four-year term.
It's hard to conclude this is anything but political maneuvering meant to meet partisan objectives at the expense of the Supreme Court, our constitutional process and the common good. It's the sort of obstruction we've seen often in recent years, with ceaseless political warfare holding critical issues and institutions hostage.
Republicans will argue that Democrats have committed similar offenses, or would do the same if the tables were turned. That's not an excuse. Grassley and Republicans should follow the process where it leads.
The president should select a qualified, high-quality nominee, and Grassley's committee should hold hearings to delve into that nominee's fitness to serve. The Senate should hold an up-or-down vote.
Americans would be far better served by a transparent process that holds our elected leaders publicly accountable through hearings and votes than by gridlock. Grassley should be leading the charge to make it happen. [The Gazette, 2/20/16]
Sioux City Journal: “Refusal Even To Take Up An Obama [Supreme Court] Nomination Disrespects The Constitution.” A February 22 editorial from the Sioux City Journal urged Republican Senate leaders to fulfill their constitutional duties:
In our view, both President Obama and the Senate should fulfill their duties under the Constitution. In other words, Obama should nominate a man or woman to the court and the Senate should exercise its “advice and consent” responsibility, including a full, fair vetting of the nominee by the Judiciary Committee.
Given political realities, we understand moving forward with a nomination this year likely means Obama's nominee (or nominees) would be defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate, but the Senate should proceed nonetheless. In our view, refusal even to take up an Obama nomination disrespects the Constitution. [Sioux City Journal, 2/22/16]
Quad-City Times: Grassley Is "Just Another Bricklayer" In The Senate's “Cesspool of Ridiculous Stonewalling.” A February 25 editorial published by the Quad-City Times condemned Grassley's announcement that the Senate Judiciary Committee would not hold Supreme Court nominee hearings until next January, when a new president takes office. The paper also suggested Republicans' “wholesale dereliction of duty” could backfire on Grassley and other Senate leaders:
Iowa's senior senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee fired off a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating unequivocally that his committee refuses to vet any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Barack Obama. The committee won't hold a hearing until January, the letter states, when a new president has taken office. Every Republican on Grassley's committee signed the ill-conceived announcement of a wholesale dereliction of duty.
At this point, Grassley and McConnell are, in essence, holding a seat on the Supreme Court for a Trump administration, a man whose personal politics are as varied as fish in the Amazon and whose campaign offers nothing but rage.
Polls also show that the majority of Americans oppose the obvious obstruction now under way in the Senate. The block-anything-and-everything policy was annoying when it was contained in the House. Now the very tea party politics that shuttered the government has leached into the Senate, shepherded by osmotic agent and failing presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a member of Grassley's Judiciary Committee. Suddenly, the legislative body -- designed to provide a check to the more populist House's shenanigans -- is just another cesspool of ridiculous stonewalling. And Grassley, a longtime leader, is now just another bricklayer.
Grassley is doing more than just ducking his duty. He's probably partaking in the GOP's slow political suicide. [Quad-City Times, 2/25/16]
The Hawk Eye: “History Won't Forget This Misstep.” A February 25 editorial published by The Hawk Eye labeled Grassley's declaration of refusal “shameful rhetoric” that “shouldn't sit well with the American voter.” The paper also criticized the Iowa senator for making his announcement before Justice Scalia had been buried:
It was shameful rhetoric from Senate Republicans on Tuesday when they declared they wouldn't even consider a hearing on anyone President Barack Obama might nominate to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
That shouldn't sit well with the American voter. Obama wasn't elected to serve a 3-year term. And it's repugnant to refer to him as a lame-duck, as Senate Republicans did.
Scalia wasn't buried yet before Grassley declared, at McConnell's direction we presume, he wouldn't even consider a hearing on any nominee. He told the president then to not even bother forwarding a name -- it was be (sic) dead on arrival.
In his declaration, Grassley abducted the spirit and intent of the Constitution, noting he was following the Constitution with his position.
Not quite. For a Constitutional refresher, here is exactly what the document says regarding appointments to the high court: "(The president) ...shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, judges of the Supreme Court."
Nowhere in the document is there a reference to a chairperson of a Senate committee having the power all to himself to deny full Senate consideration of a presidential nomination to the court.
Grassley's twist of the language of the Constitution is smug, partisan rhetoric. It's also not befitting a statesman.
Republicans, with Grassley at the head of the line, also are hampering the job before the Supreme Court. There are cases on the docket that have made their way through the judicial system to the high court and those cases deserve to be objectively heard by a full nine-member court.
Equally insulting is that Grassley so far refused to accept an invitation by his president, and ours, to have an informal meeting at the White House to talk about the vacancy. That's anything but statesmanlike. [The Hawk Eye, 2/25/16]