March 21, 2016
In a Monday letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority leader, and Chuck Grassley(R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the local lawmakers say the Republicans' decision to ignore Judge Merrick Garland flies in the face of the Senate's constitutional duty to advise the president on filling high court vacancies.
"The Senate has a responsibility to act, both under the oath they have sworn and to the people for whom they have pledged to work," the lawmakers wrote on behalf of Cities for Action, a coalition of more than 100 mayors and counties advocating for humanitarian immigration policies.
"Your willingness to meet this responsibility is not just a test of your commitment to fulfill the duties of your job, but your fidelity to the democratic values that are at the heart of our nation and our country’s history."
The letter arrives on the first day of the Senate's two-week recess, and advocates are hoping the home-state pressure will force the defiant Republicans to reconsider their position of empowering the next president to fill the seat.
With that in mind, a number of the mayors endorsing the letter hail from states boasting Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They include Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie (Grassley); Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Utah (Sen. Orrin Hatch); Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama (Sen. Jeff Sessions); Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas (Sen.John Cornyn); Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina (Sen. Lindsey Graham), and Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston, Georgia (Sen. David Purdue).
The local lawmakers, all Democrats, are emphasizing the impact of Supreme Court decisions on their cities — particularly a looming case challenging Obama's executive actions on immigration. For the Senate not to act on Garland, they charge, is to threaten entire communities under their watch.
"Our immigrant populations are part of the economic and cultural fabric of our communities, yet the justice they seek has been put on hold," the mayors wrote. "Adding any delay in considering a new nominee will further deny a resolution for the future of their families."
Behind McConnell, GOP leaders have dug in against any consideration of Garland, who heads the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Most are refusing even to meet with Obama's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away last month at age 79. The Republicans argue that, in a volatile presidential election year, the voters should have a voice in that decision.
"We’re not confirming a judge to the Supreme Court under this president,” McConnell reiterated Sunday in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Garland is widely respected by both parties, and Obama's decision seems partly designed to put the Republicans in the toughest possible spot in refusing to act.
Complicating their blockade, some Republican senators say they'll meet with Garland. And at least one — Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who faces a tough reelection bid this year — is calling for a vote.
"Your whole job is to either say yes or no and explain why," Kirk told a Chicago radio station last week.
The mayors are not alone in using the long recess to badger the Republicans. A coalition of liberal advocacy groups — including MoveOn.org, Credo Action and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee — are staging more than 50 rallies around the country on Monday targeting Judiciary Committee members and other Republicans facing tough reelection contests.
The "Do Your Job" campaign will feature events outside the offices of GOP Sens. Grassley, Cornyn, Rob Portman (Ohio), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
“Senate Republicans don’t get to subvert the Constitution and refuse to do their jobs just because they don’t like President Obama,” Murshed Zaheed, head of CREDO Action, said in a statement.
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