Today I am behind. Today I am in a black humour. So today I give you … ‘TOONS!!!
Have a great day, folks.
Today I am behind. Today I am in a black humour. So today I give you … ‘TOONS!!!
Have a great day, folks.
This hit my email box just about an hour ago:
The Supreme Court has rejected the Trump administration’s effort to subject foreigners who are grandchildren or cousins of Americans to the president’s travel ban executive order, but it will allow the administration to block many refugees for now.
The Trump administration initially said grandparents and cousins did not qualify for an exemption to the travel ban, which was required by the high court for foreign citizens with close ties to U.S. people or institutions. But a federal judge in Hawaii disagreed with the administration’s interpretation.
The judge also said refugees assigned to a U.S. resettlement organization were exempt from the ban. But the justices put that part of the decision on hold, meaning the refugee aspect can move forward for now.
Okay, so maybe it’s only a partial win, but a win, and one I truly did not expect. Three cheers for Judge Watson and for the Supreme Court.
The decision was split 6-3, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. These are the same three that voted for letting Trump’s travel ban stand in full without qualification, in June.
I would have liked to see the resettlement issue also addressed by the court. People in resettlement programs have been fully ‘vetted’ and have been waiting, some for many years, for permission to enter the U.S. It seems to me unfair that they are now left in limbo, not knowing whether they will ever be welcomed or will be forced to remain in a country where their very life is in danger.
But, this is, nonetheless, good news and gives us hope that the Supreme Court is still an independent department not influenced by the rhetoric and threats of the administration. It is proof that, at least for the time being, the system is still working.
What constitutes a ‘bona fide’ relationship? Apparently not a grandparent, at least in the eyes of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.
On Monday, 26 June, the Supreme Court decided to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward, while also imposing certain limits, as the court prepares to hear arguments in October on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration. The court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, the court failed to define ‘bona fide’, leaving the door open for the administration to write its own definition.
It did, and on 28 June, the administration issued new guidelines that defined ‘close family’ as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half. It excluded “grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés and any other ‘extended’ family members.”
And Donald Trump was happy … very, very happy.
However, on Thursday, 13 July, federal Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii ruled that the ban should not prevent grandparents and other close relatives of residents from entering the United States. He further declared that refugees with ties to a resettlement agency that was committed to receiving them had a relationship that made them eligible to enter the country.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
And as regards refugees working through a resettlement agency …
“An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones. It is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Needless to say, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not pleased …
“Once again, we are faced with a situation in which a single Federal District Court has undertaken by a nationwide injunction to micromanage decisions of the coequal executive branch related to our national security. The Supreme Court has had to correct this lower court once, and we will now reluctantly return directly to the Supreme Court to again vindicate the rule of law and the executive branch’s duty to protect the nation. By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the Executive branch in a time of grave threats, defying both the lawful prerogatives of the Executive Branch and the directive of the Supreme Court.”
And he wasted no time. On Friday evening the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn Judge Watson’s ruling, arguing that Judge Watson’s interpretation “empties the Court’s decision of meaning,” because it includes “not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members.” On Saturday morning, the Supreme Court filed a motion calling for the Hawaii court to respond to the Trump administration’s request by noon on Tuesday.
Interestingly, I found not a single tweet from Trump himself this time. Of course, he was in France on Thursday when the good judge made his ruling, and then when he returned home on Friday he went to the U.S. Women’s Open, so perhaps he is otherwise occupied.
It should be noted that Judge Watson is the same judge who went against Trump in mid-March, just hours before the 2nd travel ban was set to begin, by issuing a nationwide temporary block to the revised travel ban. Judge Watson is a man who stands behind his convictions and does not allow himself to be bullied. I give him a ‘hats off’ for that!
Sessions and Trump make much of the fact that this ban, which primarily affects Muslims, is necessary to keep the nation safe. The reality is that we do not need to ban refugees from the United States to keep our country safe. Almost every incident of mass murder, or ‘terrorism’ in the U.S. since 11 September 2001 has been committed by U.S. citizens. The refugees who enter this country are families … mothers & fathers bringing their children to a country where they hope they can be safe. Banning them does not keep us safe, and if the administration in Washington is too ignorant to see this, then they need to be replaced with people who have humanitarian values. When the administration sees a terrorist behind every tree, in every grandparent, then they have become paranoid and need to step aside and let some people who listen to facts and make decisions based on those facts and common sense rule the roost.
There is a reason the travel ban has been controversial from the outset. It discriminates based on religion and it would deny sanctuary to those who are most in need. The supporters of the ban are of the notion that they wish to “make America white again”, and they have bought into Trump’s rhetoric that Muslims are all evil, all terrorists, all looking for the means to destroy the U.S. Nothing could be further from the truth. I imagine the Supreme Court will, by the end of next week, overrule Judge Watson’s ruling, and that is sad, for it is in direct opposition to the very values on which this nation was founded.
Yesterday, after the Supreme Court decision to allow a limited version of Trump’s Muslim ban, Trump stated that now we are a safer nation. Nothing could be further from the truth, as my friend Gronda points out in her excellent, eye-opening post. Thank you, Gronda, for both the post and permission to share. As I have said more than once, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
John Kelly, Head of Homeland Security
The republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s lack of focus on domestic white extremist terrorism, let alone its denial that it even exists, is highly suggestive of his unhealthy alignment with his Alt-right, White-supremacists’ followers. Once again, the president is allowing his alt-reality universe versus factual data to prompt his policy priorities.
As per numerous sources, despite an uptick in far right hate crimes, the White House has signaled its intent to cut spending for programs that fight non-Muslim domestic terrorism even though it has budgeted for an increase of spending for the Department of Homeland Security. And in the month of June 2017, this same department has barred a $10 million government grant program, from being used to combat both domestic and Islamist terrorism to narrowing its focus to combating Islamist extremism only.
What caught my attention to focus on this issue, is the…
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The case seems fairly simple, fairly straightforward, on the surface.
In the interest of child safety, Missouri provides a limited number of state grants to playground operators to replace hard surfaces with rubber. All was going well, until 2012, when Trinity Lutheran Church, in the town of Columbia, applied for one of those grants and was turned down on the basis of Missouri’s Constitution, which bars spending any money “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church.” The church sued, arguing that the prohibition violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Now, I could actually argue this one either way … there is no clear-cut right or wrong here … it is truly a matter of conflicting Constitutional clauses. The church’s argument that to deny them funds for their playground is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, has merit. The Equal Protection Clause states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
On the other hand, I could just as easily side with the argument of the State of Missouri, whose constitution bars spending public money “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church,” and the state Supreme Court has called for “a very high wall between church and state.”
It might seem to the casual observer that, for the small amount of money we are discussing, and the fact that the safety of children is involved, it would be a simple enough solution for the State of Missouri to give the church the grant, rather than use precious resources (time & money) to hear the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. But beneath the surface, this case could open doors that could lead to the erosion of one of the basic principles in the First Amendment, Separation of Church and State.
While it is true that the term “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, James Madison, who wrote the First Amendment, said government should not “force a citizen to contribute three pence only” in support of a religion. If it does, both sides are harmed — religions and sects battle each other for government cash, while the state finds itself forced to meddle in religious affairs, where it has no business. And of course, you can see Thomas Jefferson’s quote at the start of this post.
What are those doors this case could open? There are so many. Let us start with the simplest, the core of this case, grants to upgrade playgrounds. So, if Trinity Lutheran Church prevails, then others will also seek grants from the state. Okay, fine, you say … but what happens when a Jewish Synagogue requests a grant? Missouri is 85% white, 77% Christian, with less than 1% of its population Jewish. How do you think those white Christians will feel about their tax dollars going to upgrade playgrounds at Synagogues in this day of increased anti-Semitism? Now let us go a step further … what happens when a Mosque requests a grant in this predominantly white, Christian state, at taxpayer’s expense?
Under newly appointed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, school vouchers are likely to become an issue along these same lines. The decision in Trinity Lutheran could influence the debate over school vouchers. “For a long time, it was thought that the federal Establishment Clause stood in the way of school-voucher programs that allowed religious institutions to participate,” said Rick Garnett, a professor of law and political science at Notre Dame University. “Over time, in the late ’80s and through the ’90s, the court’s doctrine evolved.” In the early 2000s, he said, the Supreme Court ruled that the Establishment Clause doesn’t allow the government to directly fund religious activities, but it’s not a problem if people use state-funded vouchers to attend private religious schools. That could all change, depending on the ruling of the Supreme Court in this case.
And then there is another angle. Lambda Legal, the LGBT-rights advocacy firm, argued in a brief that a decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran could lead to discrimination against the LGBT community. Some churches “don’t wish to serve everybody,” said Camilla Taylor, a senior counselor at the firm. If the states provide grants to churches like Trinity Lutheran, “government funds will then be used to provide social services on a discriminatory basis.”
It is, in essence, a highly-charged slippery-slope argument. Where do you draw the line? If government funds are provided to one church … any one single church or religious establishment … then they must equally be provided to all. Do we really want to start down this slippery slope? And do we want to tie up state and federal legislators, not to mention the entire court system, debating where to draw the line, or how to deal with these issues? I think not.
In 2014, the Supreme Court heard the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., in which Hobby Lobby objected to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage to female employees. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in favour of Hobby Lobby, allowing closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. It was the first time that the court has recognized a for-profit corporation’s claim of religious belief, but it is limited to closely held corporations.
There are three central concepts derived from the 1st Amendment which became America’s doctrine for church-state separation: no coercion in religious matters, no expectation to support a religion against one’s will, and religious liberty encompasses all religions. There is also a three-pronged test to determine whether government action comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the “Lemon Test”. First, the law or policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose. Second, the principle or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute or policy must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of government with religion. It is my belief that the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer meets the first two criteria, but not the third. I foresee future struggles, if this case is decided in favour of Trinity Lutheran, that would lead to far more ‘entanglement’ than would be economical or feasible for this nation, and would only add to the divisiveness that is so prevalent today. Of course, I am not a Supreme Court Justice, so my opinion does not count, but this will be the first case that newly-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch will hear as a Supreme Court Justice. There is little doubt how he will vote. The appeals court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case was joined by none other than Neil Gorsuch, who also wrote a separate concurrence. From what I have read, it appears that the outcome is likely to be in favour of the church, as only two of the Justices seemed strongly inclined to rule against.
My hope, if the court rules in favour of the church, is that the decision is written in such a way as to narrowly limit future cases of this nature. It is one to watch.
There is a reason the U.S. Constitution calls for three separate branches of the federal government. It is called oversight. It is called separation of powers. It is called checks and balances. The framers of the document were particularly sensitive to the possibility of a leader attempting to take too much power and turn the presidency into a monarchy, so they designed a system of government to prevent such an event. Donald Trump is the personification of their fears.
On 27 January, Trump signed an executive order implementing a ban on people arriving from seven Middle-Eastern, primarily Muslim countries. His order was ‘effective immediately’, with no pre-planning, no discussion with others who might have foreseen the secondary effects of the order, and no warning. Thus, many were affected by the ban that were already in the air on their way to the U.S. The result was total chaos at the airports, mass protests, and confusion among customs personnel who had not been briefed ahead of time.
One must question the sense of urgency with which this ban was implemented and the reason for it. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, Trump’s order was not prompted by any identifiable or specific threat. So why wasn’t the time taken to meet with intelligence experts and others to assess the wisdom of the ban, likely immediate ramifications, and ways to cut down on the backlash if it was deemed necessary? Why? Because Trump remains, as I said many months ago, the Man-Who-Would-Be-King. Now we are seeing the results of his impetuousness and those results are disastrous.
On Friday night, 3 February, Federal Judge James Robart halted the enforcement of Trump’s order, effective nationwide. Robart, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Washington state and Minnesota who sought to stop the order, said the states “have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order. “ He said the order adversely affects residents in areas of education, employment, education and freedom to travel.
Trump, naturally, was enraged that Judge Robart had the unmitigated gall to defy him, and took to Twitter: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” And … “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!” And … “Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!” And … “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”
Lawyers for the Trump administration immediately requested a federal appeals court to overturn Judge Robart’s ruling, but the appeals court declined to do so. Instead, the appeals court set a schedule asking challengers to the ban to file a response by 3:00 a.m. on Monday, and the Justice Department — representing the Trump administration — to reply to that by 6 p.m.
And still more tweets from the grand poobah:
“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”
“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!”
Something interesting to consider: What if Trump decided not to recognize Judge Robart’s authority? According to Daniel P. Franklin, a professor at Georgia State University, the ultimate arbiter would be the other branch of government. He said Trump could be held in contempt of court, and it would then be up to the House of Representatives. “[Contempt of court], in my opinion, is a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ in the meaning of the Constitution, and he would be subject to impeachment,” Franklin said. “Whether or not the House of Representatives would see it that way is another question. It is at that point their call.” Joel Nichols, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas: “The key to whether court orders are going to be obeyed isn’t about what President Trump does, but about how the judges respond to noncompliance and whether other non-Trump players decide to obey their orders. I think that some federal judges would be willing to issue a contempt order against [Trump], but I’m not sure they should or would, and they don’t need to. They only need to issue specific orders about laws and regulations, and then hold other government officials in contempt for not following the court order.” It’s all very hypothetical, but Trump’s rhetoric — not just about the judge’s decision, but the judge’s actual authority — and his apparent desire to press his case for his own authority suggest it’s not out of the question.
Again I ask: why the sense of urgency??? We have not had a travel ban to this point, and unless I am grievously un-informed, there is no new looming threat hanging over our heads. If anything, Trump has made the country less safe with his poorly constructed, poorly considered executive order. I call on Congress and the Judiciary to stop this madman from imposing dangerous and harmful orders that can only damage this nation more than he has already done.
Amid all the chaos, turmoil and confusion, it is easy to lose sight of the most damaging result of Trump’s ill-conceived order: the lives of refugees. In the midst of the chaos, there appears to be no accurate data regarding how many people have actually been turned away, but the estimates range from 60,000 to 100,000. We call them ‘immigrants’, ‘refugees’, or ‘asylum-seekers’, but in truth, they are human beings. HUMANS! Just like you, just like me. They are mothers and fathers trying to keep their children safe. They are people who have lived through the horrors of a war that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. And they are being bounced around like ping-pong balls by the government of this nation, a nation that once proudly welcomed all people. I am deeply ashamed of the so-called president of this country, deeply ashamed of any who support this ban. To those who argue that Trump is merely trying to keep the nation safe, I would ask the question: safe from whom? Our greatest threat today comes from within. Think about it.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in addition to being a Supreme Court Justice, is also a citizen, a taxpayer and a voter. And she, like all the rest of us, has an opinion about the upcoming election and the candidates, specifically da trumpeter:
“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president, for the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that. He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
Pretty mild, if you ask me (compared to much of what I have said about the same candidate). My initial reaction was a fairly substantial chuckle, and a desire to know more. In feeding that desire to know more, I have had to temper my chuckle with some concerns, but beneath those concerns there is still a remnant of the chuckle, if for no other reason that because her comments really annoyed the heck out of the thin-skinned trumpeter!
Article III, Section I of the U.S. Constitution provides that “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.” It is this that provides judges and justices with a lifetime tenure (assuming “good behaviour”) and also states that their salaries cannot be decreased during their tenure. The reason for this clause is to allow justices to remain Independent from the legislature, to remain above partisan politics. But does this mean that they are completely non-partisan? No, of course not, especially in their personal lives. But it does mean that they should be cautious about expressing partisan views, particularly as they may apply to cases that are or might come under their review.
All of which I agree with, at least in theory. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, need to be above the dirt and grime of partisan politics in order to be completely fair and impartial. That said, the justices are also human beings. They are, as I mentioned above, citizens, taxpayers and voters, and it would be unreasonable to assume that they had no opinion concerning candidates and their ideologies. However, there is some question among legal scholars (not to mention the media and the GOP, but let us confine this discussion to those whose opinions actually matter) regarding the wisdom and effect of Justice Ginsberg’s comments:
So, while Justice Ginsberg’s comments broke no laws, no established protocols, and indeed, the late Justice Antonin Scalia was known for making such partisan, political comments, her remarks were probably not the wisest thing she could have done. However, there are only two scenarios under which I see them coming back to haunt her. One, as mentioned above, is if the election should become a contested election and the Supreme Court is called upon to adjudicate. The other, potential situation would be if Donald Trump were to actually become president, in which case he would likely claim that the Supreme Court is biased against him due to Justice Ginsberg’s remarks. He of thin skin also has the memory of an elephant when it comes to those he feels have insulted him.
All that said, one must still obtain a bit of humour over the fact that Justice Ginsberg got under the thin skin of da trumpeter. His response was predictable (we are getting to know him so well through his tweets and speeches!) and tedious, but I just love seeing anyone get under his skin!
“I think it’s highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly. I think it’s a disgrace to the court and I think she should apologize to the court. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”
Justice Ginsberg was well within her rights to state an opinion. The 1st Amendment applies to her just as much as to anyone else. But yet, there are times when it is just smarter to keep one’s mouth shut. This may well have been one of those times, for at the very least, those troublesome Republicans who are yet trying to use smoke and mirrors, trickery and skullduggery to score a win for their despicable candidate, will no doubt raise a cry and hue over this one.
Addendum: Between the time I wrote this post and the time of its publication, Justice Ginsburg issued the following statement:
“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”
Presumably her comment is in response to widespread criticism by legal experts and the media. I am disappointed, though not surprised.
I have a simple question. Why is birth control such a controversial topic? I understand the various reasons some people are against abortion, and, while I fully support a woman’s right to choose, right of control over her own body, it took me some years to come to that conclusion. I readily admit that. But what I am talking about here is birth control. We are not talking about a fetus, a fertilized egg, or anything for which there can be any debate about “when life begins”. We are talking about preventing pregnancy, not terminating it.
A look at some cold hard facts surrounding children born to parents who were not ready to be parents:
So tell me again why some find birth control “immoral” or objectionable?
In the beginning, ACA, (Obamacare) included a provision that employers must provide to their employees heathcare insurance that would include birth control. Religious employers such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A objected, saying they should not be forced to pay for birth control when they object on religious/moral grounds. So, in 2014, the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. came before the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the birth control clause under ACA. In layman’s terms, the Supreme Court said, “Okay, sure. Then we will give you a simple form to fill out, saying that you are objecting on religious grounds, and then the insurance company and/or the U.S. government will bear the burden of providing birth control coverage to those women employed by you.” But noooooooo …. filling out a form is asking too much! And now along comes Zubik!
The case of Zubik v Burwell requests “full exemptions”, meaning that religious organizations who decide that they object to covering the costs of birth control on moral/religious grounds, should not be required to even do so much as fill out a simple form. The reality is not that the form is too cumbersome … it is a single-page form! The reality is that these companies are determined to do everything in their power to prevent their employees from obtaining birth control coverage.
Which brings me back to my original question: WHY? Do they really prefer the idea of children being abused, even killed, rather than a woman taking a daily pill? Do they really prefer thinking about all the children who suffer abuse and/or neglect because they have no responsible parent to protect them? Or is it just easier to not think about it at all? The very same people who are against birth control are willing to turn a blind eye to the 36,000 plus humans in the U.S. who are murdered … yes, murdered … by guns every year! This is a world where teenagers experiment with sex, get pregnant, have babies … babies that they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, prepared to take care of. This is a world where middle-income working couples plan to reach certain financial goals before settling in to start a family, but with that choice taken away from them, they have a child and leave him/her to strangers to raise while they continue to pursue their financial goals.
Readily available and affordable birth control is not a panacea to conquering teen pregnancies, child abuse, or child neglect, but it is a start. Those who are so offended by abortion should welcome making birth control available to all. Without access to birth control, there will be more abortions, there will be more teen pregnancies, and there will be higher numbers of abused and neglected children. That is not an opinion, it is a fact. I cannot comprehend how anybody in light of the statistics above, finds birth control objectionable. Even so, the government asks only that an organization finding it objectionable on religious grounds fill out a form – a single-page form. Is that really so hard? Think about it.
Those who read my morning post, R.I.P. Spooky, will understand why I am finding it difficult to sit and focus on any in-depth topic today. Instead, I offer a few tidbits that I found either amusing or interesting in today’s news:
So that’s it for this evening, folks! Back tomorrow with more!
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution:
He (the President) shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate National Rifle Association, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Councils, Judges of the supreme Court … (Emphasis added)
Last Wednesday, 16 March 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick B. Garland to be the 113th Supreme Court Justice. Let me tell you a bit about Judge Garland.
Judge Garland is the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has served on that court since 1997. Garland graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian from Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After serving as a law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States, he practiced corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he played a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers. In 1995, Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and (following a delay in Senate confirmation) took the bench in 1997. In 2009 and 2010, Garland was considered by President Barack Obama for two openings on the Supreme Court.
Yet, despite an illustrious judicial career, the odds of him being confirmed by the Senate this year are slim. Why? Basically because the republican-controlled Senate, has vowed that they will do all in their power to block any nomination that President Obama makes, regardless how qualified that person may be. The biggest slap in the face to We The People, the citizens and taxpayers of this nation, however, came from Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday when he stated that he “Can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm … a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.” Excuse me, Mr. McConnell, but neither of those organizations represent my interests nor support my ideology, and I RESENT THAT THEY HAVE CONTROL OVER MY GOVERNMENT! Yes, I am yelling and my fingers are pounding the keyboard at warp speed as I type this!
Deep breaths now … in … out … in … out …
In 1997, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a highly respected senator who has served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on three separate occasions, said, in regards to Merrick Garland, “Merrick B. Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned… His legal experience is equally impressive… Accordingly, I believe Mr. Garland is a fine nominee. I know him personally, I know of his integrity, I know of his legal ability, I know of his honesty, I know of his acumen, and he belongs on the court. I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but is as good as Republicans can expect from this administration. In fact, I would place him at the top of the list.” And in 2010, when Judge Garland was being considered as a nominee to the Supreme Court, Mr. Hatch again praised him, saying that Garland is, “A consensus nominee… I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of votes. And I will do my best to help him get them… He would be very well supported by all sides and the president knows that.” So where’s the beef? Simply this … republican congressmen have decided to ignore their constituency, the vast majority of whom are in support of the Supreme Court vacancy being filled as quickly as possible, and refuse to do their job. Why? Who knows? I suspect simply to show President Obama that they can. It is a playground mentality and I thought we could expect better from our elected officials. I was wrong.
President Obama did not choose to nominate a liberal-leaning judge to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. He intentionally chose a moderate nominee who is well-respected by both sides. He also did not choose a young man who could conceivably serve 20, 30, or even 40 years on the bench. He did everything in his power to nominate a judge who would be acceptable to both democrats and republicans, as he realizes the importance of filling the vacancy. It is too bad our senators are not equally intelligent.
Senators earn, at a minimum, $174,000, which does not include the value of various perks and additional monies they “earn”, meaning that on average a senator is paid somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000 plus benefits, per year. This is more than ten times what I earn for a year, and I am betting it is significantly more than anyone reading this blog earns in a year. Understand that I have no problem with that – my intent here is not to complain, as some do, that congressmen and women are overpaid. When they do their job and act responsibly on behalf of We The People, they earn every penny. Rather, my point is that this year, at least, most republican senators, are failing in their jobs. They are putting their hands in their pockets and saying, basically, “Screw the American people. I am not going to do my job until after November.” Think about it this way … we are the employer, they are the employee. If you told your employer that you refuse to do the job for which you were hired, would you still be employed next week? I think not.
I find it interesting that one argument these negligent senators give as their excuse for not considering Judge Garland is the “right of the people to have a say”. We The People had our say in 2008 and again in 2012, when the majority of voters in this nation selected President Obama to lead our nation. To refuse to even hold hearings to review this nomination is blatant refusal to do the jobs for which they are highly compensated, at our expense. There may be no solution this year, as we have spoken and the republicans in the senate have turned a deaf ear to us. But we do have recourse. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are 24 republican senators up for re-election this November. I call on the voting public to ensure that not a single one of them retain their seats. It is the only way to send a message to congress, a message that reminds them that We The People can put them in office or take them out.