This constitutional duty has transcended partisan battles because it is essential to the basic functioning of our co-equal branches of government. By ignoring its constitutional mandate, the Senate would sabotage the highest court in the United States and aim a procedural missile at the foundation of our system of checks and balances.
The good news is that there is still time for heated rhetoric to yield to reasoned action. The Senate can get there if Republicans take a deep breath, put partisan politics aside and think this through, as Americans first and foremost. It is easy to get caught up in the partisan swirl of an election year, but I would urge my Republican colleagues to remember that the consequences of blocking any nominee, regardless of merits, would hang over their heads for the rest of their careers.
The rash statement that Sen. McConnell issued a few hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was announced framed the precedent at stake in the broadest possible terms, arguing that, starting now, any president should be denied the right to fill a vacancy in a presidential election year. Not only is that principle absurd on its face, but if we set that precedent now, there is nothing to stop future Senates from sliding further down that slippery slope. It is a small and easily envisioned step to go from “no Supreme Court confirmations in this specific election year” to “no confirmations in any election year.” Our founders who envisioned a fair, bipartisan process must be rolling in their graves.