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Van Hollen among those introducing Legislation to Keep Congress in Session Until Senate Considers Merrick Garland Nomination

May 18th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) were joined by Representatives Tammy Duckworth (IL-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), and Jared Polis (CO-2) in introducing legislation to prohibit Congress from adjourning this summer without holding a public hearing or a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the United States Supreme Court.

In the history of the United States, every Supreme Court nominee who has not withdrawn from consideration has received a vote within 125 days of their nomination. The Senate’s Court Obligations Trump Unconstitutional Stalling (SCOTUS) Resolution holds Congress accountable for meeting that (still very generous) timeline.

If the Senate has not held hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination by July 19, the SCOTUS Resolution will require Congress to remain in session through the summer, during the July party conventions, and through the rest of the year until Congress fulfills its Constitutional duty to act.

“Waiting nearly a year to begin the process of replacing a Supreme Court justice is a total abdication of the Senate's constitutional responsibilities,” Van Hollen said. “Denying a President’s nominee fair consideration is an unacceptable and dangerous political game. Americans deserve a Senate that does its job – and a fully-seated bench on the Supreme Court to weigh in on the pressing issues facing our nation.” 

“The American people expect Congress to do its job even when there is an election coming up,” Esty said. “Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley, and their colleagues are acting as though they have a choice whether to do their jobs or play political games. We should pass the SCOTUS Resolution and make clear that they have no such choice: Congress can either carry out its Constitutional responsibility or members will lose the privilege of time off to campaign for their seats.”

“A fully-functioning Supreme Court isn’t just nice to have; it’s crucial to our democracy and should be above petty partisan politics,” Duckworth said. “The American people don’t deserve—and can’t afford—a deadlocked court unable to rule on the most important legal questions of our time. But, as this week’s non-decision on contraceptive access proves, that’s exactly what this unprecedented obstruction has allowed. The Senate needs to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, do its job and hold hearings and a vote on Judge Garland’s nomination. We shouldn’t let them go home until they do.”

“Let’s just say it straight: Senators who refuse to fill the Supreme Court vacancy are refusing to do their jobs,” Kirkpatrick said. “Voters deserve representation and expect results, and that includes during election years. Politicians can spin it any way they want, but the American people see right through it – they know this blockade in the Senate is a partisan ploy. Let’s pass the SCOTUS Resolution and send a strong message that elected leaders don’t just get to skip town for a prolonged recess – they must carry out their constitutional duties.”

"President Obama carried out his constitutional duty in nominating Merrick Garland and now it is time for Congress to do its job.  Judge Garland, with his distinguished legal career and long history of service to our nation, deserves a fair hearing.  To block consideration is an abdication of the Senate's constitutional duties, and the American people deserve better,” Murphy said.  “I stand with my colleagues in calling for Congress to remain in session until the Senate does what is right and treats this nomination with the seriousness it deserves."

“This is a precedent we don’t want to set for Presidents,” Polis said. “Congress should not adjourn or go home until they have fulfilled their constitutional duty and have held hearings on a Supreme Court nomination.  It’s irresponsible to play politics with the Supreme Court and refuse to even hold a hearing. This resolution will hold the Senate accountable until they have upheld their sworn constitutional obligation to the people they serve.”

Without a ninth Supreme Court justice, several important cases before the Court this year are at risk of deadlocked decisions. When deadlocks occur, the law reverts to the decisions of the lower Circuit Courts – which are very often in conflict with one another, creating different legal standards in different parts of the country. On March 22, the Supreme Court handed down its first deadlocked decision since Justice Scalia’s death in Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore.

The longest it’s ever taken for the Senate to consider a Supreme Court nominee was the 1916 nomination of Louis Brandeis, who was confirmed after 125 days. If the Senate does not consider Judge Garland by July 19, 2016, it will break that century-old record. When President Obama nominated Judge Garland on March 16, 2016, there were 309 days left in his presidential term.

Senators obstructing Judge Garland’s nomination have made no secret of the fact that their motivations are political. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recently told reporters that despite what he described as Judge Garland’s “keen intellect” and record “of accomplishment,” he believes the Senate should only consider his nomination if it appears likely that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump will lose in November’s general election.

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