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Mark Kirk leads by example

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” That language was put into place in 1789 by the very first Congress to fulfill the Constitution’s demand that members of Congress “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.”
 
It is an oath taken by everyone who serves in Congress. The same Constitution to which members of the Senate swore an oath is clear on how to address the vacancy left by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia: Article II, Section 2 states “the president shall nominate and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… Judges of the supreme Court.”  The text of the Constitution that Justice Scalia so revered is clear: there are no election-year exceptions to Article II — the president has a duty to nominate.
 
{mosads}And President Obama has fulfilled that duty by nominating Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Judge Garland’s credentials are beyond reproach. He has served not only as a judge, but also in private and public practice. He is lauded by people from across the ideological spectrum for his keen legal mind, fairness, and fidelity to the law and Constitution.
 
But Article II does not end with the president’s role in the nomination process; it also spells out the vital duty incumbent upon the Senate: advice and consent. Advice and consent is not, nor should it be treated as, a rubber stamp. But neither is it a justification for refusing to consider a nominee at all. The Framers never envisioned that senators would refuse to do their job and opt out of governing entirely. Indeed, the Father of our Constitution, James Madison, wrote of people sent to govern “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”
 
Madison also decried the factionalism of partisanship, writing that “the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” A Supreme Court bench held hostage to election year politics is disregarding the public good.
 
In order to be the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” the Senate must, in fact, deliberate. Meet with a nominee, hold hearings, and ultimately vote.
 
My former colleague in the House of Representatives and now-Senator from Illinois Mark Kirk has shown true leadership and fidelity to the Constitution. This week, he was the first Republican senator to meet with Judge Garland and is urging his colleagues to do the same. Senator Kirk is showing willingness to do the job his constituents sent him to Washington to do. Now the rest of his caucus should follow his principled example and give Judge Garland the full and meaningful consideration he deserves.
 
Never in Senate history has a Senate majority refused to even consider a Supreme Court nominee submitted by a sitting president. Senators do not need to vote yes if the nominee is unqualified for an appointment to the Supreme Court – senatorial prerogative granted by the advice and consent clause is vitally important – but a refusal to deliberate at all, particularly when the president has nominated someone as qualified as Judge Garland, is wrong.
 
I urge senators to look to the example set by my friend and colleague Mark Kirk. Remember the oath you swore to the Constitution and commit yourselves to doing the job you were sent to Washington to do. I can’t put it more succinctly than retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor did: “let’s get on with it.” Let’s get on with it, indeed – for the public good, for patriotism, and for a love of justice and the Constitution.


Ray LaHood served as Secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013 and as a Member of Congress from Illinois from 1995 to 2009.

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