Rounds Statement on President Obama’s Nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court
U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to the United States Supreme Court.
“Whoever is confirmed to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court will be serving a lifetime appointment,” said Rounds. “Keeping in mind the current political makeup of the court, the man or woman who will replace Justice Scalia has the potential to hold incredible influence over the ideological direction of the court for a generation to come. It is critically important that the next justice is committed to upholding the principles of the Constitution. We owe it to Justice Scalia, our judicial system and the Constitution to uphold the highest standards when determining our next Supreme Court Justice. We also owe it to the American people to make certain their voice is heard in this election.”
Full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court in light of President Obama’s announcement that he has nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia.
Replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, who was one of the court’s strongest defenders of our Constitution, will be difficult.
For almost 30 years, with his brilliant legal mind and animated character, he fiercely fought against judicial activism and legislating from the bench.
He will be greatly missed by not only his family and loved ones, but all Americans who share his core conservative values and beliefs.
Under the Constitution, the president shall nominate a replacement, as he did today, and the Senate has a Constitutional role of “advice and consent.”
This is a Constitutional responsibility that I take very seriously.
The decisions the Supreme Court makes often have long-lasting ramifications that – with one vote margins – can dramatically alter the course of our country.
At a time when the current administration has stretched the limits of the law and attempted to circumvent Congress and the federal court system, choosing the right candidate with the aptitude for this lifetime appointment is as important as ever.
I have determined that my benchmark for the next Supreme Court Justice will be Justice Scalia himself.
Scalia’s strict interpretation of the Constitution and deference to states’ rights set a gold standard by which his replacement should be measured.
As you all know, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressing their firm belief that the people of the United States deserve to have a voice in determining the next Supreme Court justice.
In their letter they wrote, “Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution is clear. The president may nominate judges of the Supreme Court. But the power to grant - or withhold - consent to such nominees rests exclusively with the United States Senate.”
As a result, the committee does not plan on holding any hearings related to this issue until after a new president has taken office.
This decision will allow the American people to have a voice in the next Supreme Court Justice based upon who they elect as president this November.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have argued that the American people did have a voice when they elected President Obama in 2012 – but that election was nearly 3 and a half years ago.
Since that time, a lot has changed in our country, signaling a shift in Americans’ views of our president and his philosophy of governing.
You don’t need to look any further than the 2014 elections for proof:
In the 2014 elections, the United States Senate switched from Democrat control to Republican control.
In fact, I am one of those Republican Senators who replaced a Democrat in the last election.
Many of us who ran were not supporting the president’s policies.
In fact, we ran because we wanted to change the direction that the president was moving our country.
At the state level – in 2012 – the last time President Obama was elected, there were 29 Republican governors and 20 Democrat governors.
In 2014, the number of Republican Governors rose from 29 to 31, while the number of Democrat Governors decreased from 20 to 18.
We saw similar results in state legislative races.
In 2012, Republicans held a majority in both chambers of 26 state legislatures. In 2014, that number rose to 30, and, if you take into account the conservative-leaning but officially nonpartisan legislature of Nebraska, that number jumps even higher, to 31.
In 2012, Democrats held the majority of both chambers in 15 states. In 2014, that number was only 11.
So in the years since the president’s last election, Republicans not only held a strong majority in the House of Representatives, they took back control of the U.S. Senate and increased their numbers at the state level as well.
There is no doubt that there has been a clear shift in the minds of the American people since President Obama’s last election.
I believe, just as many of my colleagues, that the Republican victories of 2014 should be taken into consideration, and therefore, we should wait to confirm the next Supreme Court Justice until after a new president takes office.
Overwhelmingly, South Dakotans who have contacted my office agree with this decision.
One gentleman from Lemmon wrote to me saying, “Our country hangs in the balance as to what the future of this great country will look like… This decision is too crucial and the next Supreme Court nominee should be nominated by the next President of the United States.”
Another South Dakotan, from Brandon, noted that “This is a rare opportunity for the American voter to actually have a voice in how the Court will be structured for many years to come. Please help preserve that opportunity for us all.”
In another example, a woman from Estelline wrote saying, “Hearing of the passing of Justice Scalia was heartbreaking news. I ask that you do your part to allow the people to have a say in who the next Justice of the Supreme Court will be.”
These are just a few examples of the numerous South Dakotans who have contacted my office who agree that the American people deserve a voice in the direction our court will take in the decades to come.
And as much as my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like to see the Senate confirm a nominee from our current president, the reality is, that when the tables are turned, they agree with our position!
In fact it was Vice President Joe Biden, who when he served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on this very floor in 1992 that, “It is my view that if the President goes the way of Presidents Fillmore and Johnson and presses an election-year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”
And it was Minority Leader Harry Reid who said in 2005 that “the duties of the United States Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give Presidential nominees a vote.”
And the Senate Democrat’s next leader, Senator Schumer, who said in 2007 – close to two years before President Bush’s term ended - that "We should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, except in extraordinary circumstances."
Whoever is confirmed to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court will be serving a lifetime appointment.
Keeping in mind the current political makeup of the court, the man or woman who will replace Justice Scalia has the potential to hold incredible influence over the ideological direction of the court for a generation to come.
It is critically important that the next justice is committed to upholding the principles of the Constitution.
We owe it to Justice Scalia, our judicial system and the Constitution to uphold the highest standards when determining our next Supreme Court Justice.
We also owe it to the American people to make certain their voice is heard in the upcoming elections.
For these reasons, I agree with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and in Senate Leadership that we should not hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee until after our new president takes office.