Nearly 100 civil rights, women’s rights, environmental, labor and social justice organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, sent a letter last week to 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to fulfill their constitutional duty to help vet and confirm a new Supreme Court justice following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The letter was sent after the senators announced to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that they would not cooperate in the judicial confirmation process on any Supreme Court nominee until after a new president is chosen in November.
The organizations’ condemned this refusal as “a clear perversion of [the senators’] constitutional duties as understood by almost every scholarly authority on the topic and by most Americans.” National polling that shows nearly 60 percent of Americans would prefer to see President Obama nominate a justice.
Despite this public opinion, McConnell said that he’ll wait until a new president is chosen to move forward on a nominee. “I agree with the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that we not have hearings,” he said. “In short, there will not be action taken.”
McConnell’s position could leave the Supreme Court—which lost Justice Scalia in February—without a ninth judge for at least two terms.
The coalition of organizations calling on the senators to act, called their position “a dereliction of your constitutional duty” that “would cause a constitutional crisis that would shake the very foundation of our democracy.” Explaining that “Our legal system is based on the rule of law and requires stability and certainty,” the coalition noted that “shackling the court for two terms would undermine the rule of law, leave legal questions unresolved, and hamper the administration of justice across our nation.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is not only holding up the Supreme Court nomination process, but a majority of its members has repeatedly blocked the appointment of federal judges nominated by President Obama. According to the Alliance for Justice, there are 12 nominees currently pending on the Senate floor, 25 pending in the Judiciary Committee, and 76 federal judiciary vacancies nationwide.
Media Resources: CNN 3/3/16; New York Times 2/23/16; Alliance for Justice; Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights