As Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral services take place this weekend, the political clash over his Supreme Court seat is heating up.
Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley penned a joint op-ed in The Washington Post laying down a bright line: “It is today the American people, rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election, who should be afforded the opportunity to replace Justice Scalia.”
This comes in the wake of a grassroots movement spearheaded by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, #NoHearingsNoVotes, also highlighted by the Post.
Hewitt’s strategy emphasizes the need not only to reject any Obama nominee but to do so as a matter of principle in order to let the people decide whether to flip Scalia’s vote, because a Democrat replacement for Scalia would be the deciding vote on issues ranging from partial-birth abortion and gun confiscation to religious liberty and issue advocacy around elections.
Hewitt explains in a direct call to activists on YouTube that because the principle of letting the people’s voice be heard on such monumental civil rights matters is the winning message, the identity of the nominee is irrelevant. Thus there should not be hearings, which in any event would be a pointless fiasco on which Democrats would try to capitalize.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative court advocacy group, announced an initial outlay of $1 million of ad buys in swing states encouraging senators to flatly declare no nomination will move forward so that the people will have a voice on that issue when they vote for president in November. Their first ad thanks Senator Grassley for his position.
The McConnell/Grassley statement was a welcome clarification to conservatives who, while buoyed by McConnell’s insistence last weekend that the Senate would not move on a nominee, heard less than clear statements from Grassley on the same issue.
The vast majority of Republican Senators have agreed there would be no movement on a nominee so as to let the people weigh in on such a consequential seat this November. This has included at least four Senators in swing state races this year: Kelly Ayotte (NH), Ron Johnson (WI), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA).
But the media have been swirling like sharks around a lifeboat trying to latch onto any Republican Senator who even remotely suggests they might be open to considering a nominee. Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) initially suggested that hearings might be appropriate but walked back her comments Thursday. Hewitt wrote a scathing open letter to Senator Dean Heller (NV) for waffling on the issue, declaring, “I suspect I will support a primary challenger to you or perhaps even your Democratic opponent . . . Change your mind and defend the Constitution, or lose your job.”
Hewitt is using his increased stature as a respected and firmly conservative voice in the CNN-Salem Media presidential debates to promote #NoHearingsNoVotes so as to make Scalia’s seat a winning election issue that highlights civil rights which resonate with social conservatives, libertarians, and Americans across the political spectrum.
Matt Bowman is an attorney who practices pro-life and constitutional law in Washington, D.C.