HUNTERDON CONGRESSMAN LANCE People should have say in Supreme Court appointment


Last week I paid my respects to the late Justice Antonin Scalia as he lay in repose at the Supreme Court of the United States. It was a moving tribute to a great patriot and dedicated public servant.

Scalia was a son of New Jersey. Born in Trenton, he served the United States for 30 years with great distinction on the Supreme Court. His intellect, wisdom and strict defense of our Nation’s Constitution will be his lasting legacy.

Having the nation pay its respects last week, the business of the Supreme Court is now being debated in Washington.

I believe the next Supreme Court appointment should be made by President Obama’s successor in the Oval Office. History shows it has been common practice for the U.S. Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term.

In fact, it has been 84 years since a Supreme Court nominee has been nominated and confirmed during the last year of a presidency. Benjamin Cardozo was nominated by Herbert Hoover and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1932.

Delaying the Senate confirmation process until after the November elections will give the American people a voice in the selection process and allow the newly elected President — Republican or Democrat — the opportunity to fill a vacancy that could reshape our nation’s highest court for a generation.

No one disputes the president’s authority to nominate a successor to Scalia. But Congress is a co-equal branch of government. Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the United States Senate is given the power both to provide and withhold its consent.

The Supreme Court is not an extension of the White House. Not only does the Senate have the authority to stop a nominee, it has a constitutional obligation to defend the separation of powers so often abused by this administration.

This was the view of then-Senator Barack Obama during the 2006 confirmation debate on the nomination of Samuel Alito. The President said at the time: “There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have the complete authority to appoint his nominee, and the Senate should only examine whether or not the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around nice guy…I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record.”

And also the view of then-Senator Joe Biden during the 1992 presidential election: “It is my view that if a Supreme Court Justice resigns tomorrow or within the next several weeks or resigns at the end of the summer, President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not, and not name a nominee until after the November election is completed… The Senate too, Mr. President, must consider how it would respond to a Supreme Court vacancy that would occur in the full throes of an election year.”

Democrats who are criticizing the move to delay this process until the election are showing selective outrage. President Obama actually voted for a filibuster during the Alito confirmation process. Here in New Jersey, State Senate President Steve Sweeney has kept a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court open for almost six years due to a political dispute with Governor Christie. It is my belief the issue of the U.S. Supreme Court nomination should be part of the discussion in the autumn presidential campaign, and in our form of government that is never obstruction.

The American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust as President to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The balance of the Supreme Court should be debated in a healthy and educated fashion during this election campaign alongside the other major issues facing the nation.