Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right-wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.
But he can’t be any more brain dead than Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate. In a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, McConnell has cited a historical precedent dictating that presidents who are in the last year of their term do not name new justices to the high court. “Therefore,” he babbled, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
What a silly old squirrel McConnell is! Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the Supreme Court.” Note that the Constitution says the president “shall” do this — as a duty to the nation. Nothing in the founding document suggests that this power and duty is voided in an election year. In fact, 13 Supreme Court nominations have been made in presidential election years, and the Senate took action on 11 of them. McConnell’s assertion is bogus (and silly), for history and the Constitution clearly back Obama.
Ironically, one who would have nailed McConnell for such a slapstick political perversion of plain constitutional language is Scalia himself. He practiced what he called “originalism” in his official judgments, insisting that the Constitution must be interpreted only by the words in it and only by the original meaning those words had for the founders when they wrote them into the document.
McConnell’s squirrelly stall tactic is as ridiculous as it is shameful. It’s also totally hypocritical, since Mitch himself voted in February 1988 to confirm a Supreme Court nominee put forth by Ronald Reagan — in the last year of his presidency.
This leads me to ask, why should you and I have to keep paying McConnell’s salary? Not only is he a Senate majority leader who doesn’t lead; the lazy right-wing lawmaker really doesn’t do anything, refusing to pick up the legislative tools he’s been given and go to work on the many things that We The People — and America itself — need Congress to do. Imagine if you tried doing nothing on your job — just drawing your paycheck after ignoring your workload!
Repeatedly, this senatorial slug says no to every task at hand. Repair and replace the water pipes that leach lead and are poisoning families all across America? No, he yawns. Raise the minimum wage to help bridge the dangerous wealth gap separating the superrich from the rest of us? Don’t bother me with such stuff, Mitch snaps. Shut off that gusher of corrupt corporate money pouring into our elections and drowning the people’s democratic rights? Not my problem, shrugs the lumpish ne’er-do-well.
And now a straightforward constitutional duty has been handed to McConnell: Gear up the Senate’s “Advise and Consent” mechanism to approve or reject President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia. We’ll do it tomorrow, muttered the somnolent senator, content to put off his responsibility to our nation’s system of justice until next year, long after Obama is gone.
We’re paying this guy a salary of $174,000 a year, plus another $19,400 for his “service” as majority leader. It’s insulting that he won’t even go through the motions of doing his job. Of course, saying no to all the chores he ought to be doing for the people is exactly what the corporate sponsors of his Republican Party expect from him. They want an inert and unresponsive government, a poverty-wage economy, a plutocratic election system and a court of their own choosing.
So “Do Nothing” Mitch is their boy. But at the very least, shouldn’t they pay his salary, rather than sticking us with the cost?
Photo: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during an event at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts