Last week, President Barack Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty by nominating Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland to the United States Supreme Court. Chief Judge Garland has bipartisan support, is well-respected, and will bring 18 years of experience to the Supreme Court.
Currently, there are an abundance of hot topics on the docket before the Supreme Court such as immigration rights, abortion rights, religious freedom, and environment protections. We are anticipating some more LGBT issues — such as "license to discriminate" bills and "bathroom bills" aimed at transgender folks — to head that way too.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a bold statement regarding the president’s nominee, stating, “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is in agreement with the majority leader and has no intention of allowing his committee to hold a hearing.
As we all know, the Senate has the responsibility to give that nominee fair consideration. I have reached out to several organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, and People for the American Way to urge them to take action. I have also reached out to several high-profile constitutional attorneys to discuss a strategic approach to suing these so-called Senate leaders for failure to fulfill their constitutional duty as well as violating their oath of office.
Filing a lawsuit would draw attention to the Republicans' obstructionist agenda and their failure to lead. The lawsuit certainly has merit and would be another effective way to hold Capitol Hill responsible. What is happening is completely unacceptable, and I plan on taking initiative on this issue.
As we have seen countless times in the past six years, the GOP-run Congress is more interested in obstruction than governing. While Republican candidates have long touted that President Obama is throwing the Constitution to the wind, it is Republicans in the United States Senate who are choosing to ignore and neglect their constitutional responsibility in the nomination process. Their rationale for this: They claim that the American people should have a say in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. However, the American people already had a say in this. When we reelected President Obama in 2012, that was the green light for President Obama to continue to make appointments to the federal benches — including the Supreme Court. We gave Obama four more years in office, with the expectation that he would fulfill his responsibilities until noon on January 20, 2017.
Likewise, the American people elected Republicans to a majority of the Senate in 2014. Like the presidential oath of office, the oath every senator took on January 3, 2015 states, "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Yet somehow those who have been placed in charge of the United States Senate have forgotten the oath they took.
The United States Constitution is clear. The president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … .Judges of the Supreme Court,” which clearly stresses their constitutional obligation. Furthermore, “By and with” indicates that the Senate’s role is mandatory. It is our job as voters and citizens to fight for what the American people deserve — and I plan on doing just that.
GOP leaders in the Senate want to do everything they can to prevent Obama appointments to powerful positions, such as the Supreme Court. It is time that we call out officials who fail to respect and protect us; and most importantly, it is time to get them out of office. I am urging everyone to call on the GOP leadership to allow a hearing and a vote on the nominee. And most importantly, make sure to vote this November.
CALEB LAIESKI is an a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for the LGBT community, public safety, and the environment.