At the third Presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump declared in defiance of the Constitution and over 200 years of tradition, that he may not accept the results of the November election if he is not declared the winner.
In response to the position taken by his endorsed candidate, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, through a spokesperson, publicly broke with Trump, calling on him to respect the election results.
Unfortunately, it seems Johnson’s triage concern for respecting our nation’s Constitution and traditions to ensure a well-functioning democracy ends there.
Exhibit A is Sen. Johnson’s behavior in obstructing the smooth operation of the Judiciary, one of the three separate and equal branches of our government established in the U.S. Constitution. In Washington D.C. Johnson, has been a central figure in the unprecedented partisanship and gridlock that has left our federal court system rife with vacancies.
He has stood by his Republican leadership in blocking a nominee to the United States Supreme Court for purely partisan political reasons. As the court begins a new term, in a disturbing historic first, it will have a single nomination span two terms. It has been over seven months since President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Previously, a Supreme Court nominee has never had to wait longer than 125 days for a confirmation vote. Since the 1980s, every person appointed to the Supreme Court has been given a prompt hearing and vote within 100 days. In fact, 17 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during an election year, including current Justice Kennedy, a nominee of President Reagan, who was confirmed by a Democratic Senate in 1988, a presidential election year.
Johnson has also been a central figure in saddling the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals with the longest vacancy in the nation, at over 2,500 days since the opening was announced. His dilatory tactics have prevented a confirmation vote on President Obama’s nominee to the vacancy of what is traditionally considered to be the “Wisconsin seat.”
We count on our courts to protect our rights and ensure everyone is treated equally by the law. It’s why they matter so much. But when courts don’t have their full complement of justices, they can’t do the job they’re supposed to do.
The dire situation we face today is a patchwork of differing decisions and law across the nation with critical civil liberties, clean air, privacy, reproductive rights, social justice, corporate accountability, equality, and fairness issues left in limbo or undecided.
The U.S. Constitution, that Sen. Johnson took an oath to abide by, requires the President to nominate judges. The responsibility to “advise and consent” is the Senate’s.
President Obama has done his job as required by our Constitution, forwarding nominees to fill Supreme Court and other federal judicial vacancies. Now it is time for Sen. Johnson and his Republican colleagues to do theirs.