Under the header, “Obama is president until January 20, 2017. It’s his job to nominate a justice, the Senate has a responsibility to vote,” Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page issues the following statement:
Nearly everything Clinton says here is either misleading or just untrue.
It was actually 222 days between when Justice Powell announced his retirement (June 26, 1987) and the Senate confirmed Justice Kennedy to succeed him (February 3, 1988).
Reagan nominated Kennedy in a non-election year (November 30, 1987).
Recent history is replete with partisan jockeying over Supreme Court nominations, from both Republicans and Democrats. Kennedy was Reagan’s third pick to fill that vacancy. The first was Robert Bork, the second was Douglas Ginsburg. Opponents painted Bork as a racist and misogynist. Ginsburg withdrew after he came under fire for having smoked marijuana (O, the humanity!) as a young man. Sen. Chuck Schumer once called on the Senate to block almost anyone George W. Bush nominated to the Supreme Court.
As a senator, Barack Obama tried to filibuster a vote on Samuel Alito’s nomination. Once Obama became president and started nominating judges, Sen. Harry Reid moved to prevent Republicans from doing the same thing to lower-court nominations. Et cetera, et cetera.
As for our constitutional principles, whether or not Senate Democrats acted wisely in rejecting those nominations, there can be no question they acted well within the powers the Constitution grants them. Schumer, Obama, and Reid likewise acted well within those powers.
The Senate does not have “a responsibility to vote” on an Obama nomination, any more than it had a responsibility to vote on Ginsburg’s nomination. The Senate can withhold its consent any way it wants.
Thus, if Senate Republicans now refuse even to entertain any Obama nominations, there will be nothing ahistorical about it, and nothing particularly improper about it. There won’t even be anything particularly Republican about it. Hillary is just making stuff up to serve her own partisan interests.
Which means she, too, is acting well within the historical tradition of Supreme Court nominations.