Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, should either do his job or step down and let someone willing to do the work of a U.S. senator representing Alabama take his place.
On Tuesday, Sessions was among the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who pledged to go on strike for the next 11 months. They won’t meet with a Supreme Court nominee appointed by President Barack Obama to replace the recently deceased Antonin Scalia.
They won’t hold hearings on any Obama nominee.
And they won’t allow an up-or-down vote on an Obama nominee.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican Judiciary Committee members wrapped their resistance in language that attempts to pledge loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.
Sessions and his fellow committee members are refusing to do their jobs. It’s just that plain.
Their job is to examine presidential nominees to the federal courts, including to the Supreme Court. The authors of the Constitution expected senators to examine nominees closely, looking at their records, their wisdom, their judgment and their intelligence.
Senators are expected to hold public hearings with nominees. This gives senators an opportunity to raise concerns and for nominee to address them in a public setting. Then senators are expected to give nominees an up-or-down vote.
Senators aren’t required to rubber-stamp appointees, but they should closely examine each one and vote either yes or no.
Every step in that process builds confidence among citizens, which matters when it comes to lifetime appointments to the federal bench.
None of this will happen during the last 11 months of the Obama presidency, Republican senators boldly declared this week. In other words, these senators are refusing to do their jobs.
One of our senatorial strikers, Jeff Sessions, should know better because of his past.
In 1986, Sessions was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan. His nomination became controversial when some Democratic senators raised objections. Sessions, who was then a federal prosecutor, was accused of racism by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
Sessions’ defenders cried foul. Attorney General Edwin Mease said the nominee was a victim of a “smear” campaign.
Opponents of Sessions were troubled by the accusations. Sen. Howell Heflin, a Democrat from Alabama, said after “careful review” he had doubts of Sessions’ fairness and impartiality.
Eventually, Sessions’ nomination was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-8 vote.
What follows is important and highly relevant to today: Judicial court nominee Sessions was able to make his case before the committee. Over 23 hours of hearings, senators considered his worthiness.
Those senators back in 1986 were doing their jobs. Now it’s time for Sessions to do his when it comes to a replacement for Justice Scalia. He isn’t compelled to approve of Obama’s nomination — he likely won’t — but he should give him or her a fair hearing.