Steering and Outreach Committee Hosted Forum with Legal and Constitutional Scholars from Georgetown University, UNC, Columbia University and the University of Chicago about the Senate’s Constitutional Responsibility to Fill a Vacancy and Attempts to Obstruct the Process

Leaving Seat Open until after Election Would Be Longest Vacancy in the Last Century

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Senator Amy Klobuchar led a forum with legal and constitutional scholars to review the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to act on the Supreme Court vacancy. Following the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, many Republican Senators said that they will not hold hearings or a vote on any nominee.

Klobuchar joined other senators in a discussion with legal experts about the impact a year-long vacancy will have on the integrity of our government and the dangerous precedent that would be set by refusing to act on the constitutional obligation to consider a nominee. 

“The Supreme Court has the constitutional responsibility to weigh some of the most important issues facing the American people,” said Klobuchar a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Senate Steering and Outreach Committee. “The President has not yet announced a nominee to fill the current vacancy on the Court. When he does, it will be the constitutional duty of each one of us to consider the nominee on his or her merits—and then choose whether to vote yes or no.”

"In the modern history of the nation, there is no precedent for the Senate’s deliberately refusing to vote on a nominee to a vacant Supreme Court seat, whether during an election year or at any other time,” said Jamal Greene, Professor of Law at Columbia University.

“The Republicans are thumbing their nose at one of the most important responsibilities the President and Congress have in our constitutional framework. They are striking a grievous blow at the idea of checks and balances that is absolutely basic to our constitutional structure. When a seat on the Supreme Court is the subject, ‘advise and consent’ becomes an affirmative duty that is at the very core of our constitutional architecture. The Republicans will engage in an unprecedented violation of the separation of powers if they continue to refuse to take even the tiniest step toward carrying out their constitutional responsibility,” said Georgetown University Law Professor Peter Edelman.

"The well-settled and firmly-established tradition in Supreme Court confirmations is that the Senate invariably defers to the president as long as the president puts forth nominees who are well-qualified for the position and reasonably moderate in their views. Indeed, this has been the outcome in every single nomination in the last sixty years, and it holds true even when the Senate is controlled by the opposing party, even when the nominee's confirmation is likely to have a significant impact on the balance on the Court, and even in the final year of a president's term,” said Geoffrey Stone, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. “This is the lesson of experience and of our history. This tradition has served our nation well over the years. If the Republican now act in disregard of this tradition, they will recklessly throw the Supreme Court confirmation process in a state of partisan chaos that will damage both the rule of law and the Supreme Court as an institution."

“The provisions and guarantees of the U.S. Constitution are not suspended at any time. They apply with full force at all times, including times of emergency, crises, and presidential elections,” said University of North Carolina Professor of Law Michael Gerhardt.