U.S. Senate members have a few pretty important responsibilities that are part of the job description. They're supposed to vote on legislation, of course, and ratify treaties and international agreements. And on the rare occasion that a spot opens on the Supreme Court, they're supposed to work with the president to confirm a new justice.
Well, both Miami residents running for U.S. president — including the one who sits in the U.S. Senate — don't see it that way. In the hours after Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly died this weekend, both Rubio and Bush urged the Senate to refuse to confirm anyone nominated by President Obama.
Both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio hammered home that point in the GOP debate this weekend. Jeb's argument: Anyone Obama nominates, by definition, will be too liberal for the court:
Rubio, meanwhile, argued that Americans should first get to chose a new president, who would then find someone for Scalia's seat:
Jeanette & I mourn the loss of Justice Scalia, and our thoughts & prayers are with his wife Maureen & his family. pic.twitter.com/e03KRZRM6q— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 13, 2016
Both arguments are bizarre if you stop to think about them for a moment. For one thing, Americans already did have a say in this selection: They re-elected President Obama by more than 5 million votes in the last ballot, giving him the power to chose new Supreme Court members.
Also, the Republicans are handcuffing themselves by refusing any Obama nominee. As it is, they control a narrow majority in the Senate. They can ensure anyone who replaces Scalia is at least a moderate.
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Postpresidential election, who knows what the political landscape will look like? What if a Democrat wins the presidency and the Dems recapture a Senate majority?
Then there's the more basic fact that blocking a Supreme Court appointment for 11 months would be unprecedented. The longest that Congress has waffled on a nominee was 108 days: In 1988, in this exact situation, a Democratic Senate confirmed a nominee from lame-duck Ronald Reagan in his last year as president.
But then again, history and logic haven't played the most prominent roles in this GOP presidential campaign so far.