February 16, 2016 - Tuesday
The stakes of the presidential race were put in sobering perspective over the weekend with the sad passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In an election where the courts have been a backseat issue for everyone but former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the country's eyes are now fixed on the empty, black-draped chair of Justice Scalia.
In 29 years, the Constitution had no greater friend than the man whose body will lie in repose in the Court's great hall Friday. For three decades, the bombproof cases at National Archives protected the physical document, while down the street Justice Scalia guarded its intent. "The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring," he once said. "It means today not what current society, much less the courts, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted."
An ardent defender of the charter's "bright lines," Scalia will be missed for the artistry of his opinions, his deep love of country, and his blunt and brilliant perspective. In the days to come, Scalia's legacy will be one of family -- at home, where he and his wife raised nine children, and at the Court, where he will be remembered for his passionate defense of life, freedom, and marriage. At a time when the bench seems overrun with wannabe legislators, Justice Scalia stood in stark contrast to the liberal ideology that distorts the Constitution for its own purposes. Now, a month shy of his 80th birthday, the country is grappling with how to move forward.
There are dozens of high-profile cases pending before the Court -- including the key conservative battles over the Texas abortion law and the conscience rights of Little Sisters of the Poor. While the Court copes with Scalia's absence, the White House seems intent on nominating his replacement, despite the 80-year tradition of leaving an election-year vacancy to the next president. Invoking the Constitution he has selective use for, President Obama told reporters it was his "duty" to submit a name to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. Of course, the greatest insult to Justice Scalia's memory would be to appoint a replacement in the mold of Obama, who's spent seven years trampling on the Constitution on the way to his own personal policy goals.
Almost immediately, Senate leaders fired back, insisting that voters were less than nine months away from selecting a new president -- and, following eight decades of tradition, Scalia's replacement should be left to that person. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others in insisting there would be no confirmation "The fact of the matter is that it's been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year," Mr. Grassley said. "Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this president, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice."
The situation is a critical one, as Alliance Defending Freedom's Matt Bowman points out. "The Senate is doing what the people elected them to do in 2014 -- put a check on President Obama's radical executive excesses and protect the people's right to decide on any transformative changes. It's no longer hypothetical what those changes are: because Scalia could represent the Court's swing vote, we might as well write on the November ballot alongside the Democrats' names, partial-birth abortion, gun confiscation, and lawless Democratic executive orders thwarting the people's representatives."
The Supreme Court's fate has always been intricately linked to the president's. Now, less than 300 days from an election, "two branches of government are at stake," Cruz warned. "If liberals are so confident that the American people want unlimited abortion on demand, want religious liberty torn down, want the Second Amendment taken away, want veterans' memorials torn down, want the crosses and stars of David sandblasted off of the tombstones of our fallen veterans, then go and make the case to the people. I don't think the American people want that."
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