Justice Scalia has died. Out of respect for the recently departed I will only say that his service and dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution has been remarkable and that his passing must be a time of great sadness for his family and friends. Bless him for his commitment and bless everyone who mourns him.
With that out of the way, holy hand grenade did everyone get the pleasantries out of the way quickly. His body wasn’t even cool before the empty spot on the bench became a political football, with Sen McConnell (R-KY) saying we should wait for a new President in a year before filling the vacancy.
The politics which make it possible to even suggest such a strange thing goes to the heart of the problems deep at the core of our national dysfunction and disgrace.
If there is no action on a new Justice for another year it will hardly be the only thing stalled and balled up in Congress. The Senate rarely confirms anyone Obama proposes for any position, be it judge or janitor. There are currently 81 vacant positions for Federal judge, 39 with pending appointments. The openings go back as far as 2010, with a large number from 2013.
Never to be outdone, the inaction in the Senate is easily matched by the US House. Since the Republicans took the House in January 2011 they have never passed an actual budget. We have operated on “continuing resolutions” that simply keep everything operating from the 2010 budget with more money thrown at them. If the US House was to do just one thing every year and then go home it would be to pass a bduget.
They haven’t even done that.
The best estimate of the total cost of Congress, salaries and all, is about $800M every year. They spend this money while apparently not even bothering to show up. The House is in session about 133 days of the year, which is to say 20 hours per week on average.
There are, of course, some Republicans who think that this is not a problem. After all, a Congress not in session or tied up in fillibuster is a Congress not working through the evil socialist agenda of President Obama. But to take that position is to accept that the Republican agenda is already dead in the water, too. Hasn’t the GOP been promising an awful lot to its supporters for 30 years or more? Aren’t they supposed to end abortion, balance the budget, end welfare, and block immigrants from entering this nation?
Of course the next stage of this argument goes that Congress can’t run Washingtoon by itself, so what’s the point of passing legislation that we all know will be vetoed? The short answer is that a series of compromises to get something, anything of the Republican agenda in place would be better than nothing. The long answer is that they could make a statement and force Obama’s hand by showing what a socialist he really is by forcing him to veto legislation favored by true red-blooded Americans.
No, they’d rather do nothing. They’d rather keep those issues unresolved, another battle cry for the endless war on whatever they’re at war with now. Victory on any of these issues? It’s actually undesirable because a new issue would have to be found to rile up the troops.
That’s why Congressional approval ratings never get higher than about 16%.
The worst problem with years of stalling as a tactic glorified into a strategy is its corrosive effect. Let’s leave aside the crying need for a functioning government which builds infrastructure and responds appropriately to the needs of the people. Let’s even leave aside the desperate need for reform in tax codes and regulatory structure made necessary by the winds of change that blow very hard in this era of increased global connection and weak “recovery”.
Years of inaction as the action of choice have degraded every aspect of Washingtoon to the point where those in power right now are not in any way capable of doing anything.
Sen McConnell and the Republican leadership have become utterly lazy. They collect their paychecks and do nothing because nothing is all they know to do. And it is long past time to call them for what they are.
Stalling a Supreme Court nomination is not a strategy, it is a habit. It’s what we get when we allow lazy freeloaders to stay on a job they are clearly not competent enough to perform.