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Partisan Politics Poisons Supreme Court Nominations

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, seated second from the right.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, seated second from the right.

By Ashley Duong

With the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, tension over filling the now-open spot has reached a pinnacle in the White House. With a conservative Congress threatening to reject any and all nominations suggested by President Obama, it seems this has become yet another fighting point between the conservative legislature and liberal executive.

Congress is suggesting the nominations be held off until the next election cycle has concluded and a new president has been inaugurated. This is not only unethical, considering Obama still has another ten or so months in office, but also goes against the precedent set in the past for Supreme Court nominations.

Senate leader Mitch McConnell, the leading voice in this controversy, seems to have changed his tune in terms of his views on presidential powers.

“The President is presumably elected by the people to carry out a program, and altering the ideological directions of the Supreme Court would seem to be a perfectly legitimate part of a Presidential platform. To that end, the Constitution gives to him the power to nominate,” he wrote in a law journal article from 1970-71 during Richard Nixon’s presidency.

This is a complete and utter rejection of the stance that he is currently taking against Obama. Roughly 45 years later, McConnell has proved himself to be a hypocrite. Clearly, in his eyes, only a Republican president should have the power to nominate.


Article II  of the Constitution grants President Obama the power to nominate and appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and gives the Senate the power to vet and either confirm or reject his nomination. For the current Senate to outright deny all nominations seems unconstitutional and undemocratic.

In addition, the rhetoric that conservatives are currently using to speak of the issue is inconsistent with what prominent conservative leaders have said in the past in regards to presidential powers.

This outright rejection reflects and exposes the political motives of the Republican party, a ploy in an attempt to have a majority in yet another branch of the national government.

It seems the conservative legislature is waiting in hopes of a conservative President coming into office and potentially make nominations more favorable to the party.

Scalia served as a reigning conservative voice on the Supreme Court and without him, there is an even amount of left leaning and right leaning justices. Understandably, the next justice to take Scalia’s spot has an important impact on the future leanings of the court itself, which is why the conservative Congress is making such an effort to halt nomination processes.

Unfortunately, Obama is not due to leave the White House until January of next year. The precedent set by histories past has had Supreme Court nominations occur almost immediately after a spot has opened on the bench.

Therefore, waiting over ten months to fill the spot would serve to be an issue with rulings on court cases. Since there are currently an even amount of justices in the court, the delay in nominations will then put a delay on the already overwhelming amount of cases waiting to be heard. The Senate has no obligation to approve of Obama’s nominations.  To declare rejection from the very outset without even some sort of consideration is undemocratic and inconsistent with our country’s history.


Ashley Duong is a first year literary journalism major. She can be reached at