Democrats in Colorado have a message for the dozen-or-so Republican candidates vying to take on Democrat Michael Bennet in the fall: Read the Constitution.
The Colorado Democratic Party on Friday mailed one of the perceived top-tier candidates, Jon Keyser, a copy of the pocket Constitution, says party spokesman Andrew Zucker. The party also invited any other candidate in the race to contact the Democratic Party office if they need a pocket Constitution of their own.
Why? Democrats want Keyser and his other GOP primary opponents to “read the process under which the president nominates Supreme Court justices.”
The Dems have been keeping close watch on responses to the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by their Republican rivals and have been sending out news releases detailing the play-by-play of some recent Republican-on-Republican critiques. Yesterday, the Democratic Party pointed out a tit-for-tat between Keyser and Republican Robert Blaha, a Colorado Springs businessman also running in the primary. The two candidates had been squabbling over their respective reactions to Scalia’s death and how the U.S. Senate should respond to the process of filling a vacancy on the High Court.
Keyer told The Colorado Statesman that he was the first in the crowded GOP field to say a decision to replace Scalia should be up to the next president.
Blaha’s campaign took umbrage at that characterization, pointing to a Saturday Facebook post that said in part, “There’s no way we should allow this president another Supreme Court nomination.”
But the Keyser camp was all, Whoa, hold up, that’s not as clear as our guy’s statement. In the The Statesman story, the back-and-forth went so far as a Blaha spokesperson urging media to check Facebook time stamps to see which candidate had been first with a statement.
Which brings us back to today’s pocket Constitution stunt by the Democrats.
“The constitutional process under which the president nominates Supreme Court justices is pretty clear, and we hope Jon Keyser has an opportunity to read about it,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker in an e-mailed statement. “We knew Jon Keyser was handpicked by the same national Republicans who’ve spent years creating gridlock in Washington, but even we were surprised at how quickly he echoed Mitch McConnell, and then tried to brag about it.”
Kentucky’s McConnell, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, has said the next president should choose a justice to replace Scalia, and vowed to obstruct the process if President Barack Obama puts forth a nominee. Supreme Court nominees must clear the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
Scalia’s unexpected death on Saturday at a Texas ranch, and the U.S. Senate’s role in deciding on a new Supreme Court justice, has become an issue in campaigns for the U.S. Senate across the country. During a Democratic fundraiser in Denver Saturday, Bennet asked for a moment of silence for Scalia before launching into an entertaining speech in which he lambasted Republicans running for president.
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the sitting president “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.”
As law professor Ilya Somin recently pointed out in The Washington Post, “Notice that the Senate is not required to give its ‘advice and consent.’ Rather, its consent is a prerequisite to enabling the president’s nominee to take up his or her office.”
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Article II, Section 2 does not lay out any specific procedure by which the Senate can refuse its consent. It does not indicate whether it must do so by taking a vote, or whether it can simply refuse to consider the president’s nominee at all. However, Article I, Section 5 states that “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.” That power includes the rules for considering judicial nominations, as well as all other Senate business. Thus, so long as the Senate has established rules that allow it to refuse to vote on a nominee, it can do so – just as it can refuse to vote on bills, treaties, or any other business that comes before it.
Following Bennet’s speech in Denver, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders respectively called on the U.S. Senate to vote for a High Court nominee and to get that nominee through the process as soon as Obama puts a name forward.
In a statement, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House said he backs Republicans in the U.S. Senate in their effort to ensure the next president fills the vacancy.
“There is very little precedent for a Supreme Court confirmation under divided government during a presidential election year,” House said. “Confirming a partisan Supreme Court nomination under these circumstances would be a departure from our American tradition and rob voters of their right to speak on the issue.”
Photo credit: Tim Green, Creative Commons, Flickr