Unlike Glenn Beck, I don’t think the U.S. Constitution is sacred scripture like the Bible. We do, after all, get to amend it. But I do think U.S. senators should do what it tells them to do.
Article II, section 2 of the Constitution says that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the supreme Court.” At this point, President Obama has declared his intention to nominate such a judge. The Senate’s Republican majority has indicated that it will not consent to anyone the president nominates. The only advice it gives is that the president disregard his constitutional obligation to make the nomination.
These days, Republican officeholders love pledging to “restore the Constitution.” Why, a “Restore the Constitution Act” was even introduced in Congress last session. How about just not picking and choosing from among its provisions?
By way of encouragement, I would urge Mitch McConnell & Co. to go back and read George Washington’s Farewell Address — you know, the speech where the Father of Our Country declares that “the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.” It has some choice words about Cafeteria Constitutionalism:
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.
I’d say that the Republican senators are currently committing just the kind of assault on the Constitution Washington was warning against. Their pretext — that somehow the country should leave the nomination to the next president, who they hope will belong to their own party — is specious. They are undermining what they cannot directly overthrow.
Much of the Farewell Address is devoted to a denunciation of faction, as in: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”
Would Washington have discountenanced the Senate’s factional refusal to discharge its constitutional duty? You can bet on it.