Liberals have hit Johnson and the Republican-controlled Senate hard for refusing to hold a confirmation hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland.
Johnson says the Republicans have fulfilled their constitutional duty.
“President Obama job is to nominate and he chose to do that,” the senator said. “Our job is to advise and consent.”
Article II, Section II, Clause II of the constitution states that the 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…”
The Senate’s advice, Johnson said, was the same as Vice President Joe Biden‘s, who in 1992 as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman urged President George H.W. Bush not to send a Supreme Court nominee to the Senate during that election year.
Should there be a vacancy on the court, Biden said Bush should “not name a nominee until after the general election is completed,” and if he did, the “Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”
“Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself,” Biden said. “Where the nation should be treated to a consideration of constitutional philosophy, all it will get in such circumstances is partisan bickering and political posturing from both parties and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
That’s exactly what Johnson says today.
“It’s just too highly politicized of an atmosphere. It’s not fair to the nominee, it’s not fair to the court. Don’t nominate anybody,” he said. “That was our advice. President Obama didn’t follow it.”
The second part of the Senate’s constitutional responsibility is consent. Johnson said the Senate is simply withholding its consent.
Liberals are licking their chops over the prospect of flipping what had been a narrowly divided Supreme Court, controlled by conservatives and a so-called “swing vote” before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month.
Johnson said the stakes couldn’t be higher for constitutional principles.
“The left wants the Supreme Court flipped. They want an activist court,” he said. “They want to have President Obama appoint another super legislator to join the liberal block and what would be put at risk are your Second Amendment rights to bear arms, your First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty. That’s what is at stake here.”
A majority of Americans think the Senate should at least hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, released last week. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted March 3-6, before Obama nominated Garland. It has margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
A CNN/ORC poll on March 3 found 66 percent of respondents believed an Obama nominee should receive a hearing. But 48 percent said Senate Republicans would be justified in preventing a vote to confirm the candidate once a hearing is scheduled.
Many religious organizations support the position of putting off the high court question until the presidential contest is settled, of rejecting out of hand the nominee of arguably the most liberal president in U.S. history.
“We encourage Senator Johnson in the fight to stand against President Obama and Planned Parenthood in their support of the new Supreme Court nominee,” said by Ashley McGuire, Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association. The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit’s mission statement is, “Defending religious liberty, life, and the Church in the Public Square.” They see much to defend against in Obama’s nominee.
“An initial review of President Obama’s selection of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court raises grave concerns at a time when religious liberty is under assault and when the stakes in the fight for the unborn have never been higher,” McGuire said.
Garland has received high praise from the CEO of Planned Parenthood, raising “major red flags” from groups like TCA. And the federal appeals court judge has publicly called the released papers of the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion – a “great gift to the country.”
“The people of Wisconsin deserve a voice in this debate and will have that opportunity when they vote in November,” McGuire said. “We know Senator Johnson will side with the people of Wisconsin and not President Obama, the abortion industry, and judges like Merrick Garland who have contempt for religious freedom.”
Johnson, like his Republican colleagues in the Senate, agrees that voters should decide the direction of the country and the court.
“I can’t think of a more democratic process. The American people are going to go to the voting booth, they are going to decide the direction of the country,” Johnson said. “Let them have a voice in what is the direction of the Supreme Court. And understand what’s at stake.”