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Delay confirmation of new Supreme Court justice until after November election


Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and Star News editor Brian Wilson.

What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander.

In 2016, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, refused to allow hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court, to replace Antonin Scalia, citing as his sole reason that it was a presidential election year, and that the next president, whomever it was, should appoint their nominee.

The seat went unfilled for more than a year, until Justice Neil Gorsuch was sworn in.

Fast forward to today, with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, at 87 years old, not yet laid to rest, and McConnell and other Republican leaders in the senate, including Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, already clamoring for a quick replacement to fill the position.

As in 2016, quickly filling a vacancy during a heated presidential election, would rob the American people of the opportunity to weigh in on such a momentous decision. Elections matter, or at least they should. With such a short period of time before the general election, the process to confirm a new justice should be delayed until after voters get a chance to go to the polls Nov. 3.

With Ginsburg’s advanced age and ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer, selecting her eventual replacement has been an ongoing election issue for both candidates. Justices are appointed for life terms, as a way to shield them from partisan politics and allow them to make decisions based on the merits of the case, rather than political expediency.

This not so fine point has been overlooked in recent years, as the goal has been to pack the bench with partisan ideologues, who put a political agenda above the law and above decades of legal precedents.

The election of the president and U.S. senators, is the opportunity voters have of setting the direction of the highest court in the land and allowing it to serve as a true check on the excesses of Congress, and the executive branches of government.

For the senate to suggest taking such quick action now, after so vocally objecting doing so 11 months before the election in 2016, reeks of hypocrisy. Senators facing challengers this fall, and in coming year, may find the stench lingering and remembered by voters.

With less than five weeks until the election, delaying action until the voters have spoken, will have little to no impact on pending cases before the court, while providing renewed legitimacy for the Supreme Court as a body independent of political machinations.

The U.S. Senate should follow its own precedent and delay the appointment of a replacement for Ginsburg until after the general election, in order to allow the voice of the people to be heard.