Elections Matter, Including Off-Year Elections: Let the People Decide

In response to my op-ed in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer, calling on the Senate to delay filling Justice Scalia’s Supreme Court seat until after the people have spoken in November about which way they want the country to go, I’m getting quite a bit of feedback claiming that the president was elected not for three but for four years.

True, and he’s perfectly within his constitutional power to nominate someone to fill the seat. But those critics, pointing to the 2012 elections, seem to forget the 2014 elections, which were widely read as a repudiation of Mr. Obama and his policies. The Republican Senate is perfectly within its constitutional powers to ignore any such nomination—much as Senator Schumer and his colleagues did for two years after President George W. Bush made 11 appellate court nominations in 2001, including John Roberts, Michael McConnell, and Miguel Estrada, all with stellar qualifications.

What seems to be forgotten as well is that, at the end of the day, these are political decisions. The Constitution leaves the composition of the courts indirectly but ultimately to the people, a power they exercise through elections. And that is why this next election will be so important.