Sen. Blunt should give Supreme Court nominee a fair hearing

Obstructionist GOP senators are vowing to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Voters should watch closely whether Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt treats this nomination with the respect and seriousness it deserves or gives priority to partisan maneuvering.

The president and Senate are constitutionally required to address the Supreme Court vacancy and return the court to full strength. Imposing artificial delays for partisan purposes is the mark of a weak leader. Is this how Blunt proposes to win another six-year term?

By the GOP’s own standards, Garland is eminently qualified and deserves a fair hearing. The call by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his colleagues to blindly refuse a hearing until after the November presidential election is appallingly irresponsible.

Garland, 63, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, is a centrist with bipartisan credentials who has been praised by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Like Scalia, he attended Harvard Law School, and like justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, he is a former prosecutor. He shares his background on the powerful D.C. Circuit court with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Scalia.

When Obama was considering Garland for the seat that went to Justice Elena Kagan in 2010, The New York Times reported that Hatch “privately made clear to the president that he considered Judge Garland a good choice.”

The newspaper reported that Obama ultimately decided to hold Garland in reserve for a later time when Republican hostility would require a nominee with Garland’s deeper GOP appeal.

Obama wrote on SCOTUSblog in February that Garland is “someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law.”

What do Senate Republicans fear from a hearing based on the nominee’s merits? If they think another round of obstructionism somehow wins them greater public support, Blunt and other GOP senators should recall the harsh public reaction after the 16-day government shutdown in 2013. When Republicans maneuvered to force another shutdown in 2015, the GOP leadership quickly put a stop to it. That’s because leaders, including McConnell, recognized it as a potential public relations disaster, especially with elections approaching.

Blunt will have only himself to blame if he joins the obstructionists and creates an election issue for the opposition to exploit.

His Democratic challenger, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, 34, is a veteran of the Afghanistan war who has fought for an ethics overhaul in Missouri.

Missouri voters tired of the GOP’s just-say-no tactics should cast their ballots accordingly. If Blunt won’t do his job in Washington and legislate responsibly when it really matters, it’s time to elect someone who will.

Reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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