Weekly Address: It’s Time to Fill the Vacancy on the Supreme Court

The Vice President:
Hi, folks. Joe Biden here and I’m
sitting with Tim Lewis, a retired federal judge who
was nominated to the bench by a Republican President
and confirmed by a Democratic Senate-within
four weeks of a presidential election. Judge Lewis:
Hello, everyone. That’s right. And I’m living proof that
President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court-Chief
Judge Merrick Garland-deserves similar
consideration by today’s Senate. The Vice President: Not only
because Merrick Garland is recognized-without
exception-by the right and the left as one of America’s
sharpest legal minds and a model of integrity. Judge Lewis: But also
because that’s what the Constitution requires. The sitting President
shall-not may-but shall nominate someone to fill
a vacancy on the Supreme Court, with the advice and
consent of the Senate. That includes
consulting and voting. The Vice President:
Here’s how it works. For 17 years, I was chairman
or ranking member of Senate Judiciary Committee, which
overseas nominations to the Court. I presided over nine total
nominations-more than anyone alive. Some I supported. Others I didn’t. But every nominee was
greeted by committee members. Every nominee got a
committee hearing. Every nominee got out of
the committee to the Senate floor, even when a nominee
did not receive majority support in my committee. And every nominee, including
Justice Kennedy-in an election year-got an up or
down vote by the Senate. Not much of the time. Not most of the time. Every single time. That’s the Constitution’s
clear rule of Advice and Consent. And that’s the rule being
violated today by Senate Republicans. Nobody is suggesting that
Senators have to vote “yes” on a nominee. Voting “no” is
always an option. But saying nothing, seeing
nothing, reading nothing, hearing nothing, and
deciding in advance simply to turn your backs-is not
an option the Constitution leaves open. Judge Lewis: And it has real
consequences for all of us. In the four months
since Merrick Garland’s nomination, we’ve already
seen how the Senate’s refusal to act is preventing
the Court from fulfilling its duty of interpreting
what the law is and resolving conflicts
in lower courts. Historic obstruction
is leading to greater litigation costs and
delays-the burden falling mostly on average Americans
rather than corporations with endless resources. Unresolved decisions by the
Supreme Court are leading to federal laws that should
apply to the whole country being constitutional in some
parts but unconstitutional in others. If this continues, our
freedom of speech, our freedom to practice our
faith, our right to vote, our right to privacy-all
could depend on where we happen to live. The Vice President: And the
longer the vacancy remains unfilled, the more serious
the problem-with greater confusion and uncertainty
about our safety and security. If you have eight Justices
on a case, Justice Scalia himself wrote, that it
raises the, “possibility that, by reason of a tie
vote, the Court will find itself unable to resolve
the significant legal issue presented by the case.” And if Republican Senators
fail to act, it could be an entire year before a fully
staffed Supreme Court can resolve any significant
issue before it. Folks, there’s enough
dysfunction in Washington, D.C. Now is not the time for
it to spread to the Supreme Court. Judge Lewis: And we’re
better than what we’re seeing. As a country, we’re only as
strong as the traditions we value-that we sustain by
dedicating ourselves to something bigger
than ourselves. The Vice President: Folks,
the defining difference of our great democracy has
always been that we can reason our way through to
what ails us and then act as citizens, voters, and
public servants to fix it. But we have to
act in good faith. For unless we find common
ground, we cannot govern. For the sake of the country
we love-we all have to do our job. The President has done his. Senate Republicans
must do theirs. Thanks for listening and
have a great weekend.

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