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

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, retired Federal Judge Timothy Lewis joined Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Vice President talked about his experience as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which every nominee got a hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor. Despite having more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history, Chief Judge Garland’s nomination has now been pending longer than any other Supreme Court nominee who wasn’t withdrawn from consideration. Judge Lewis emphasized that this lack of action is preventing the Supreme Court from fulfilling its duty of interpreting the law and resolving conflicts in the lower courts. The Vice President made clear that for the sake of our Nation, everyone must do their job. That’s why the President did his job by nominating Chief Judge Merrick Garland. Now, it’s time for the Senate Republicans to do their job.

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

Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden and Retired Federal Judge Timothy Lewis as Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address, The White House, July 30, 2016

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.

Bolding added.




  1. Yesterday the president signed laws naming Post Offices, the only legislation the Do Nothing 114th Congress can agree upon.

    Included in the list was this:

    H.R. 4777, which designates the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1301 Alabama Avenue in Selma, Alabama, as the Amelia Boynton Robinson Post Office Building

    Amelia Boynton Robinson died last year. Here is more on her life:

    Amelia Boynton Robinson was a civil rights pioneer who championed voting rights for African Americans. She was brutally beaten for helping to lead a 1965 civil rights march, which became known as Bloody Sunday and drew national attention to the Civil Rights Movement. She was also the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama.

    Here she is with President Obama, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday:

    In March of 2015, at the age of 103, Boynton Robinson held hands with President Obama as they marched alongside fellow civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march.

    A wonderful tribute to a lifelong activist for justice and civil rights.

  2. In the News: A convention speech recap by Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC) included an interview with the Khans, parents of a fallen soldier, who spoke at the convention:

    Mr. Khan delivered his speech from memory, a speech written from his heart and delivered with such dignity and passion that it will be seared into our memories. He is also a Republican, disheartened at being abandoned by his party which is led by men who have placed party over country and endorsed Donald Trump and his hateful rhetoric.

    After the segment calling out the GOP, the Khans spoke with about their son in an extended interview: Capt. Khan’s parents remember their son

    • Donald Trump attacked the Gold Star parents on an ABC program Saturday.

      But Khizr Khan is not done with Trump:

      ” … this person is void of empathy. He is unfit for the stewardship of this great country. You think he will empathize with this country, with the suffering of this country’s poor people? He showed his true colors when he disrespected this country’s most honorable mother… all the snake oil he is selling, and my patriotic, decent Americans are falling for that. Republicans are falling for that. And I can only appeal to them. Reconsider. Repudiate. It’s a moral obligation. A person void of empathy for the people he wishes to lead cannot be trusted with that leadership. To vote is a trust. And it cannot be placed in wrong hands.”

      “In response to Trump’s attack on his wife, Khan said the Republican nominee’s words were ‘typical of a person without a soul.’

      Sociopath. James Fallows reminds us of the Joseph Welch moment from the McCarthy hearings: “Until this moment, I think I never really gauged your cruelty.”

  3. In the News: Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Trump’s Brain

    “You know, I sometimes think that [Trump] hides behind a certain bravado to hide a lack of substance that he has. A person this far along in the process, I think we would know a little more about what his plans are,” [Eric Holder] reasoned. “We’d know more about who his mentors might have been, who his intellectual guides might be. And I don’t have any sense that there is any of that to him. He seems like — he seems to me to be a very shallow man.”

    The former attorney general then expanded on his sense of the limitations of the Republican nominee’s intellect.

    “One of the other things that makes me doubt his intellectual heft is he sees everything in black and white terms, and that is — that’s the realm of people who aren’t very smart, because the world really — the tough stuff is in the gray areas,” Holder told Rose. “That’s where you have to delve and try to figure things out and he has shown no interest and I would say no capacity to delve in and operate in those gray areas.”

  4. In the News: Voting Rights winning in the courts

    Courts have dealt setbacks in three states to Republican efforts that critics contend restrict voting rights – blocking a North Carolina law requiring photo identification, loosening a similar measure in Wisconsin and halting strict citizenship requirements in Kansas.

    The decisions followed a similar blow earlier this month to what critics said was one of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws in Texas. The New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said Texas’ voter ID law is discriminatory and must be weakened before the November election. […]

    On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked North Carolina’s law that limited to six the number of acceptable photo IDs. The law also curtailed early voting and eliminated same-day registration. The court said the North Carolina provisions targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.”[…]

    In the Kansas ruling, a county judge said the state must count thousands of votes in local and state elections from people who did not provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they registered. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national leader in Republican voter restriction efforts, had pushed through a rule that would have set those votes aside, perhaps up to 50,000 by the November election. […]

    In Wisconsin, a federal judge threw out a host of election laws, while allowing the state’s voter ID law to remain in place with substantial limitations. U.S. District Judge James Peterson ordered the state to quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone trying to obtain a free photo ID but lacking underlying documents such as birth certificates.

    He struck down restrictions on absentee and early voting, saying they discriminated against blacks. He also struck down an increase in residency requirements from 10 to 28 days, a prohibition on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to vote and a prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email. […]

    Marc Elias, an attorney whose law firm has challenged voting restrictions in several states including Wisconsin and North Carolina, said the recent rulings are steps toward correcting “voting restriction laws put in place by Republican legislators.” There’s been a concerted effort by Republicans nationwide since President Barack Obama was elected to peel back voting rights and laws improving access to the polls that had been in place since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, he said.

    Two Tweets that tell the tale of our post-Shelby “post-racial” America announced by rich white guy Chief Justice John Roberts:

    Michael Cohen @speechboy71

    That time a federal court said NC enacted voting restrictions w/express purpose of stopping black people from voting

    Ari Berman @AriBerman

    Like in NC, WI court finds that new voting restrictions designed to “suppress the vote of African-Americans”

    • Charlie Pierce:

      ” Politely, of course, Judge Motz, who seems to be a very nice lady, called bullshit on both [Chief Justice Roberts in Shelby and the trial judge, Schroeder]. In following Roberts, Motz said, Schroeder, “seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees.”

      “It is yet another in the current list of court decisions in which the presiding justices have decided that it is insufficient to try and pass off what Blackstone would have called a barrel full of bad-faith bullshit as legal justification for the political ends you’re seeking.” 

      [North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down – It’s a Great Day for Voting Rights]

    • WaPo: The ‘smoking gun’ proving North Carolina Republicans tried to disenfranchise black voters

      “Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise,” the judges write in their decision.

      That bears repeating – “the State’s concern that African Americans had too much access to the franchise”.

  5. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine campaigning in Johnstown PA. Tim Kaine dings The Donald for his lack of knowledge about “50 states”.

    Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine’s presidential campaign bus tour rolled into rural western Pennsylvania on Saturday to talk about jobs and manufacturing – and begin a fight for votes from the state’s white, working-class voters that Donald Trump hopes to win over in November. “We are visiting places that prove what Americans can do,” Clinton said at a wire factory in Johnstown. “We are the most productive, competitive workers in the world. We just need to give our people the chance to succeed.” A Clinton aide said Saturday that the stop in Johnstown was chosen specifically to target white, working-class voters in rural Pennsylvania – a trip billed as a journey into “Republican turf.” Although Democrats have won Pennsylvania in recent presidential elections, experts say the state will be close in November.

    USA Today: Clinton to white, working-class voters: I’ll ‘fight’ for you

    Hillary Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine rolled out of their nominating convention in Philadelphia and into the majority-white, working-class enclaves of the nation’s Rust Belt that Republican Donald Trump thinks will carry him to victory in the November election.

    The Democratic ticket spent the second day of a bus tour traveling across western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio on Saturday, contrasting Clinton’s economic proposals — which she’s calling the biggest investment in jobs since World War II — with Trump’s business record of manufacturing his own branded products overseas.

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