Grassley’s excuses are purely political

Des Moines – Opinion

March 2, 2016

Iowans are known for being hard workers, and we appreciate that quality in our elected officials. We wake up every day, ready to do our part, and get the job done. We are also politically astute, understand the U.S. Constitution, and know when an elected official is more eager to find excuses than create solutions. Unfortunately, Sen. Chuck Grassley is refusing to do his job as described in Article 2 of the Constitution, giving “advice and consent” on the president’s upcoming nomination to the Supreme Court.

Grassley is threatening to use his powerful post as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to block a hearing on any nominee, regardless of how well qualified he or she is. His recent column and public statements regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court are troubling and harmful to our courts. Moreover, this isn’t the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew.

Sen. Grassley first tells us we should delay the nomination because it’s an election year, and the people need to have their say at the ballot. But this represents either a fundamental misunderstanding or deliberate misinterpretation of our Constitution. The president has the authority to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court, and the Senate has the responsibility to give advice and consent. Those responsibilities do not disappear during an election year. They are designed to maintain a well functioning court, which requires judges and justices. No vacancy such as this has ever stretched over two Supreme Court terms, and it’s clear our country needs a functioning court. We can’t afford to wait.

Sen. Grassley also argues that he should deny any nominee even a hearing because Americans voted a Republican majority to the U.S. Senate during the 2014 elections. Each and every senator, regardless of party, was elected to do the job of a senator. No one was elected to bring our judicial system to a screeching halt. Sen. Grassley is duty bound by the Constitution, first and foremost, which compels him to act.

Sen. Grassley also cited three statements from the past, as far back as 1992, from Democrats whose arguments fit his current obstructionist position. The senator uses those statements to further justify blocking any nomination. Having served in elected office in both major political parties, we know better than most that you can find politicians on multiple sides of an issue. It is rarer to find a politician who refuses to let those statements serve as an excuse, and instead roll his or her sleeves up and get to work. That is the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew.

President Barack Obama has more than 300 days left in office. The last dozen Supreme Court justices were each nominated and confirmed in less than 100 days. Any nominee for the Supreme Court should be given serious consideration, and a hearing in the Judiciary Committee (which Sen. Grassley has the power to schedule) without delay.

Any decision to delay this process is a purely partisan political decision, and one that will do lasting damage to our courts. Whenever politics are injected into the courts, public confidence in this branch of government deteriorates. Judges serve the Constitution and the law, not political parties, special interest groups or donors. Judges are not politicians, and should not be treated as such.

Sen. Grassley has a career defining opportunity to break this standoff and use his leadership position to move the process forward. Sen. Grassley has the career-defining opportunity to strengthen our confidence in the courts and restore our confidence in our government. We urge him to do so.

Joy Corning, a Republican, and Sally Pederson, a Democrat, have both served as lieutenant governor of Iowa, and now work together as co-chairs of Justice Not Politics. For more information: info@justicenotpolitics.org

###