Justice picks should recuse

DEAR EDITOR:

Shame on Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell for asserting that the current president’s Supreme Court Justice nominee will be voted upon this fall, with neither delay nor the generally required 60 senatorial votes. McConnell has invoked the Biden rule and will utilize the nuclear option of senatorial voting.

The Biden Rule stems from then-Sen. Joe Biden’s speech in late June 1992 (during the presidency of George H.W. Bush) just prior to that summer’s political conventions, in which he suggested that if a Supreme Court vacancy were to occur, it should remain unfilled until after the election. However, no vacancy opened, no debate occurred and no Supreme Court justice nominations were affected.

But when Justice Anthony Scalia died 11 months before President Barack Obama’s term ended and Obama nominated a replacement, McConnell jumped back 24 years, resurrecting the so-called Biden Rule as justification to refuse cooperation. The vacancy remained until January 2017, when the current president nominated Justice Gorsuch. As Gorsuch failed to garner the traditional total of 60 senatorial votes, McConnell ended the matter by cloture, a point of parliamentary procedure colloquialized as the nuclear option. McConnell declared Gorsuch confirmed once 51 Senators, a bare majority, had voted for him.

Now Justice Kennedy’s retirement brings this president an opportunity to nominate a second Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh. We don’t yet know if Kavanaugh will respect past Supreme Court decisions, such as Roe vs. Wade (a woman’s right to choose) or Obergefell vs. Hodges (same-sex marriage).

But just as the shape of our judicial landscape will change with this conservative appointment, there is yet another issue of the 2016 election that concerns the new justice. We await the report of Special Prosecutor Mueller, whose investigation will reveal whether any Americans, including the president or his men, coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

We must ensure that in any such case in which Donald Trump might be named as an indicted or unindicted co-conspirator, the justices appointed by this president shall recuse themselves and remain uninvolved in any legislative process that would render decisions affecting Mr. Trump. It’s time to raise our voices and call our legislators.

LINDA COCUZZI RICHTER

Nile

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