On Cabinet and SCOTUS Nominations…

With the election of a new President, we have the nomination for new members of the Cabinet. And with a current vacancy on the Supreme Court, President Trump has also nominated someone to fill the spot created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. All of these require the approval of the Senate.

The Cabinet nominations have been opposed fiercely by Democrats in the Senate, and they promise to do so when the nomination for the next justice of the Supreme Court is considered. With just two exceptions, a majority of Senate Democrats have voted against every nominee.   And the process is taking longer than it ever has, in part because Democratic opposition has been so fierce that, in a couple of cases, every Democratic Senator has simply got up and walked out of the hearings. As recently as earlier, the vote on the nominee to lead the Dept. of Health and Human Services went past 2 AM because of the long debate.

Democrats, by their own statements, have said they want to hold up the nominations. A clear case of attempted obstruction? Democrats just trying to clog up the progress of government, of course?   Well….hold on.

Republicans refused to hold hearings President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for a year. For all of the rationale given, the move was unprecedented and Republicans were effectively invalidating a quarter of a President’s term. And prior to that, Republicans had held up a number of other judicial nominees, a number more than at any other time in American history.

So Democrats are now using that to justify their actions. “They did it first” now seems to be an acceptable position for our politicians. It’s like having small children again, except these small children are paid a heck of a lot of money and are running the country.

And so Republicans in the Senate say they may change the rules for Supreme Court nominees to only require a majority vote rather than the 60% that is required now, which of course has Democrats upset. But…hold on (again). When Democrats controlled the Senate, they changed the rules for all other nominees to do exactly the same thing.   And so Republicans say they would only be doing what the Democrats did first.   (This all gets so confusing, doesn’t’ it? My head hurts…).

So what’s the bottom line?

With Republicans in control of the Senate, unless a scandal or something unforeseen comes along, the nominees will almost assuredly get confirmed. But what about the next time that the Presidency and the Senate are controlled by different parties? What then? Does everyone still point fingers? Do we have a Senate that just refuses to consider a President’s choices? Or should we expect our leaders to work together, even if they disagree, to do their job as the people’s representatives who, after all, work for us?

What is the answer?   How do we get to a state of affairs where two normal things can happen: 1) a President who–let’s face it–reflects the results of an election by the people, has the ability within some very broad parameters, to choose advisors and judges that reflect the President’s views and which the President thinks are qualified and 2) there is a needed and constitutionally mandated review by the Senate, with the Senate doing a legitimate job to weed out any nomination that is especially unqualified or is egregious in one way or another?

I’m not sure the answer to those questions and there probably are nuances to find the best balance. But I am sure that we need to get rid of the emotion and hatred of anyone that disagrees with us, politically. And in our current environment that may need to start with us, the citizens of the US, before we can expect it of our politicians.

 

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