More political games with a Supreme Court appointment
It has been this newspaper’s consistent position that as long as a president’s selection of a Supreme Court justice falls within the norms of American jurisprudence and absent evidence of bad character, the Senate should grant its consent.
Based on the available information, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a court vacancy, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, meets this standard for confirmation. Which raises the question why Trump and the Republican Senate majority aren’t playing it straight.
Unfortunately, the confirmation process has become highly politicized. The most dramatic example, which will continue to have long and damaging impacts, was the refusal during the entire year of 2016 to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. After taking the oath of office in 2017, Trump nominated and won confirmation for his pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
The Supreme Court seat was effectively stolen. If Democrats are ever in the same position, they will certainly return the favor. Who could blame them? What a terrible precedent was set.
All the more galling then, to see Republicans rushing forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation process without giving Democrats a fair chance to access and examine relevant evidence dating from the nominee’s time working as a legal counsel in President George W. Bush’s administration.
On Labor Day, the eve of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the White House dumped 42,000 documents on the committee, but when Democrats sought a delay to assess the information before questioning the nominee, Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, refused.
“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” asked Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vermont. Could it be the looming 2018 election?
More troubling, the Trump administration refused to provide another 100,000 documents, making an unprecedented claim of executive privilege. The Constitution gives the Senate the power of advice and consent concerning these nominations. The Senate should not allow the president to usurp that authority by withholding relevant information.
But the Senate Republicans have the votes. They are not going to give the Democrats time to assess information and potentially make a case against Kavanaugh. They are not going to demand the executive fulfill its obligation to fully inform the Senate.
Kavanaugh will win confirmation and a broken process will suffer deeper fractures.