The confirmation hearings of Judge Brett W. Kavanaugh have been highly contentious, no question about it. The Republican majority has been in an all-fired hurry to shove this candidate down our throats and the Democratic minority has been equally loathe to admit that this candidate has the requisite qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice. This is not the way we should be filling a vacancy on the highest court in the land.
It would be easy to cast aspersions on one side or the other, to search for a raft of false equivalencies or an avalanche of what abouts. In the interest of at least SEEMING to be objective, I shall call the reader's attention to what happened just over two years ago with respect to the Supreme Court. We need go no farther than the Republicans' treatment of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
No one wants to see a vacancy on the Court remain unfilled for an extended period of time. That's why it's at least understandable that the Republican majority approaches this vacancy with a justifiable sense of urgency. Well, one MIGHT understand this unseemly sense of urgency if it weren't for the disgraceful treatment of Judge Merrick Garland at the hands of the very same Republican majority.
Yes, I'd be willing to concede Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications for a seat on the Supreme Court. But then Merrick Garland was every bit as qualified as Brett Kavanaugh, perhaps even more so considering his lengthier experience as a federal judge. Yet the Republican majority in the Senate at the time refused to give Merrick Garland even the courtesy of a hearing. Hell, every Republican with the exception of Mark Kirk refused to even open the doors of their offices to Judge Garland. So much for Republican consideration of qualifications!
Yes, leaving the present configuration of the Court at its present four/four split runs the risk of making the highest court in the land fully incapable of reaching any definitive outcome on a host of controversial issues. That can't be a good thing. So one might be forced to concede that the Republicans are justified in their unseemly rush to confirmation. But once again I'm tempted to turn the clock back to 2016. It's February and we've just received word that Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. The Court at that time is similarly split four to four and thus also judicially impotent. President Obama acts with all due speed to fill that vacancy with a highly qualified candidate. Do Senate Republicans rush with an equal sense of urgency to fill THIS vacancy? I should say NOT! They are more than content to allow the Supreme Court remain judicially impotent for the better part of a YEAR, gambling that a Republican will win the Presidency and thus fill that empty seat. A gamble, which of course they won.
In some sense the whole Merrick Garland fiasco turned out to be a win/win situation for Republicans. They now will constitute a solid five/four majority on the Court and will define our judicial system for at least the next generation. However, let me point out that their actions will also have consequences. The rather harsh treatment of Judge Kavanaugh is only the beginning. What Republicans have to understand is that they have single-handedly poisoned the Supreme Court well for the next generation. Democrats will long remember this most recent episode in Supreme Court history. They will fight every future Republican Supreme Court nomination with unprecedented fury.
Even more alarmingly, they will be determined to find even MORE ideological liberals to fill Supreme Court vacancies when they get the opportunity to do so, thus turning the Supreme Court into the same kind of ideological snake pit that is the United States Congress! This, I believe can be called an unexpected consequence and one with which we will have to live for quite some time to come!
Filed under: Politics