In writing my brief report about President Barack Obama’s (D) appointment of Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court, I discovered that she had been appointed to the federal judiciary once before by President Bill Clinton (D). The appointment, toward the end of Clinton’s presidency, was not acted on by the Republican-controlled Congress. After the end of Clinton’s term, President George W. Bush (R) made is own appointment for the still-vacant appeals court position that Kagan had been appointed to.
This is a long-standing point of contention of mine with both of our political parties: the Constitution requires that the U.S. Senate give its ‘advice and consent’ to the president when he makes political appointments (Article II, Section 2). When the Senate filibusters the president’s nominations or otherwise delays or interrupts or stops the appointment process, it is skirting its Constitutional responsibilities. Every presidential appointee, Republican or Democrat, is entitled to a plain, prompt up-or-down vote in the Senate. Period.
There are plenty of valid reasons for the Senate to not give its consent to a particular appointee: if an appointee is legitimately unqualified for their intended position, for example, or if they have shown poor professional judgment or a lack of respect for the Constitution. But in all cases, they should be permitted to make their case before the Senate and all Senators must vote yes or no for whatever reasons they might have. The objections and ‘no’ votes, however, are then public record.
Luckily, appointees to the Supreme Court rarely get hung up for too long . . . but I would advise the Republicans in the Senate not to harp too much on Kagan’s lack of judicial experience, since the only apparent reason she doesn’t have judicial experience is because the Republicans running the Senate in the 1990’s failed to perform their Constitutionally-mandated ‘advice and consent’ duty.