When it comes to selecting a new U.S. Supreme Court justice in an election year, we agree with Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Everyone should wait until after the election.
That is, we agree with the statements that Republicans Roberts and Moran made in 2016.
"By nominating a replacement for Justice Scalia, President Obama is attempting to deny the American people a voice on the next Supreme Court justice," Roberts was quoted as saying in a Topeka Capital-Journal story from March 16. "The next justice will have an effect on the courts for decades to come and should not be rushed through by a lame-duck president during an election year."
That makes sense, we suppose. And if that was true in March of 2016 with the nominee being the widely praised centrist jurist Merrick Garland, we can only imagine how true it is in September of 2020. With the presidential election in full force and President Trump trailing badly in the polls, how could any of his nominees hope to represent the will of the American people?
Roberts said it wasn’t even a partisan matter: "This is not about the nominee, it is about giving the American people and the next president a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice," he said. Again, we would note, in March of 2016.
Moran ended up taking a principled stand, too. Although he had earlier entertained the possibility of holding hearings on Garland’s nomination, he ended up saying they weren’t necessary based on a study of the nominee’s record.
"Senator Moran remains committed to preventing this president from putting another justice on the highest court in the land," an aide to the Senator told news outlets in early April.
We know that both of the senators from Kansas are honorable men.
Both put the people of Kansas ahead of party or partisan politics. Both understand how important it is that the judiciary remain free of political wrangling or interference. Both understand the importance of retaining the confidence of the people they represent.
So we are sure that now, with an opening coming on the court with less than two months to the presidential election, they will oppose as a matter of principle any nominee coming from President Trump. After all, as Roberts notes, the American people need to have a role. And Moran doesn’t even have a nominee to study yet. How could he even take a stand?
If the senators end up acting differently this time around, it’s worth asking why.
Could it be that principle was never the point? Could it be that rank partisan politics was always the endgame?
We hope that’s not the case. We hope that Roberts and Moran continue taking their principled stances from four years ago.