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Senator Al Franken addressed the Senate’s failure to the country:

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) addressed the new justice vacancy in the Supreme Court on February 24. In opening, Franken told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “swift” action needed to be taken. He offered his “thoughts and prayers” to the family of the late Justice Scalia, adding he did not share Scalia’s views on the U.S. Constitution, nor on the country, and that Scalia had a great sense of conviction and humor. Franken then quickly gets down to the business at hand:

“Let us all remember that each and every senator serving in this body swore an oath to support and defend [the] Constitution,” said Sen. Franken in prepared remarks. “It is our duty to move forward. We must fulfill our constitutional obligation to ensure that the highest court in the land has a full complement of justices.”

Franken reminds the audience that the U.S. Constitution Justice Scalia loved is the same U.S. Constitution that allows the president to nominate a new justice, and with the “Advice and Consent of the Senate,” appoint a judge to the Supreme Court.

The senator notes with disgust that it took less than an hour after news of Scalia’s death hit the public for the GOP to announce they would not take up the business of considering a replacement until after the presidential election. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.

The only problem with the Majority Leader’s reasoning, Franken adds, is that the American people have spoken. Twice.

He reiterates that President Barack Obama was elected and reelected by a solid majority of the American people who understood his role is to uphold his duties according to the Constitution and that includes appoint a Supreme Court justice should a vacancy occur.

Here’s where it gets good. One of the highlights of this speech was when Franken suggests the GOP apply their own reasoning to the Republican-led Congress.

If we were to truly subscribe to the Majority Leader’s logic and extend it to the legislative branch, it would yield an absurd result. 

  • Senators would become ineffective in the last year of their term.
  • The 28 senators who are now in the midst of their reelection campaigns and the 6 senators who are stepping down should be precluded from casting votes in committee or on the Senate floor.
  • Ten committee chairs and 19 subcommittee chairs should pass the gavel to a colleague who is not currently running for reelection or preparing for retirement.
  • Bill introduction, and indeed the cosponsor ship of bills, should be limited to those senators who are not yet serving in the sixth year of their terms. When a Republican says it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year, Franken says, “I know that’s not true. And I’m not the only one,” mentioning several sources including the indisputable SCOTUS blog, which says, “historical record does not reveal any instances [in over a century] of the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election.” In closing, Senator Franken states the Supreme Court is a central pillar of our democracy. The women and men who sit on that bench make decisions that touch the lives of every single American—regardless of party or political persuasion. Franken urges his colleagues to “reject the impulse to put politics before our sworn duty” to uphold the Constitution. There is a video of Franken’s entire speech.
  • In his speech, Senator Al Franken describes the hypocrisy, negligence, and obstructiveness of Republicans that has taken place the entire seven years President Obama has been in office.
  • Franken tells the committee (and the public) that the day before, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Majority Leader vowing to deny a hearing to the president’s eventual nominee, saying they will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee—until after their next president is sworn in on January 20, 2017. Franken calls their actions an historic dereliction of the Senate’s duty. He brings up that “Chairman Grassley gathered only Republican Committee members in a private meeting where they unilaterally decided, behind closed doors, to refuse consideration of a nominee.” Franken calls the action to refuse a hearing “shameful, and I suspect that the American people share that view.“
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