Obama announces his SCOTUS nominee, Senate Republicans and Democrats react
Every president hopes for a grand legacy. One of the ways a U.S. leader can mold their legacy is by nominating members to the U.S. Supreme Court. A justice serving a term on the highest court of the land can redefine the lives of Americans for decades to come.
No wonder then that President Obama's March 16 selection of centrist nominee Merrick B. Garland, 63, heated up the election-year furor. In a formal but floral setting in the Rose Garden, Obama explains what he sees in Garland, 63, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence,” Obama declares in a New York Times report. “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term; neither should a senator.”
Garland would replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in mid-February at age 79, and was described in a New York Times obituary as "a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court." After news of Scalia's passing, some critics complained that Obama should let the next president pick the nominee. But it is an important task for any leader. Is it right to expect a sitting president to defer one of his duties?
Garland, who Obama says has been mentioned in previous nomination discussions, sums up his feelings in the Rose Garden, NPR reports.
"This is the greatest honor of my life, other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago," Garland says, pointing to his wife. "As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving. And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is clear on the nomination. “The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”
As this election cycle amps up, it is unclear how the nomination process will proceed, and thus, what outcome awaits Garland. The president spoke of some concerns after NPR's Nina Totenberg concluded her recorded interview.
"The thing that could be lost," Obama tells NPR, is the "collegiality" among the justices, who tend to work long terms together on critical cases. If the confirmation process falls apart, it is "just impossible" that could endanger "the ability to disagree without being disagreeable," a key part of any independent judiciary.
We'll leave you with one last comment. This is from the U.S. Supreme Court's website: "Power to nominate the Justices is vested in the President of the United States, and appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate."
These are all important issues to ponder, especially in such an unusual presidential election year. How do you feel about the topics?