Senator John ThuneWith the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the U.S. Senate is preparing to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to give “advice and consent” after President Bush nominates a new individual to the nation’s highest court.
It’s been 11 years since the last Supreme Court opening. This is an historic and important decision which should be treated in a serious manner. The nominee, the President, and the American people deserve a dignified confirmation process that is characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing, and a fair up-or-down vote.
Filling the Supreme Court seat should not resemble the recent bitter debates on the President’s lower-court judicial nominations. Those debates were often contentious and partisan, resulting in unprecedented filibusters that blocked a fair up-or-down vote. Hopefully the Senate has since learned that Americans expect a dignified process resulting in a fair up-or-down vote on judicial nominees.
President Bush has called on special interest groups and others involved in the confirmation process to tone down the heated rhetoric. He has urged Senators to focus on the nominee’s qualifications and not impose ideological litmus tests.
I believe one of the cornerstones for a credible nominee should be a justice who supports the rule of law, who will judge – not legislate – from the bench.
Supreme Court decisions like the recent Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain decision show the dangers of having activist judges who change the intent of the Constitution. That decision allows government to seize private homes and businesses, not just for public use, such as a highway or a bridge, but for private development that will bring more tax revenue to the city. That decision was a slap in the face to private property rights and greatly expanded the practice of eminent domain as provided for in the Constitution.
The next Supreme Court justice should be principled and fair in interpreting the Constitution. The confirmation process is designed to establish the qualifications of a nominee for the Court – his or her legal ability, judgment, and integrity.
The roles in the process are clear: The President nominates and the Senate provides advice and consent. He has his job, we have ours. As Alexander Hamilton told the Constitutional Convention, Senators “cannot themselves choose – they can only ratify or reject the choice of the president.”
President Bush is in the process of reviewing a diverse group of potential nominees who meet this high standard and who will faithfully interpret, not rewrite, the Constitution and laws of our country.
One thing is for certain, President Bush’s nominee deserves real consideration – not instant attacks. The Senate should set its partisan preferences aside and seriously review the nominee’s credentials and then give that person a fair up-or-down vote.