By Lora-Marie Bernard
TEXAS’ US senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz want voters to decide who becomes the next US supreme-court justice.
They came up with the idea late last week just as reports emeerged that president Barack Obama has narrowed his choices for nomination to three candidates.
After the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia last month, the court has four liberal members and four conservatives, giving Obama a chance to swing its balance to the left of center and upset a decades-long right-wing philosophy.
Cruz, left, a Republican Party presidential-nominee hopeful, said on Friday night that Obama should not pick a nominee because he is a lame-duck president.
“The stakes are too high to allow President Obama, in the waning months of his final term, to make a lifetime appointment that would reshape the supreme court for a generation,” he wrote in an e-mail to supporters.
Senate Democrats last week urged Obama to choose a nominee even as their Republican counterparts charged it would be uncouth to do so. The GOP had already said it would prefer to delay Scalia’s replacement until after November’s presidential election. The Republicans have threatened to stall any White House nominee.
Now, it appears they want the nominee to be placed on the November ballot, with Cruz also saying he would fight any effort to deny a voter-approved supreme-court justice.
In remarks in the senate judiciary committee on Thursday, Cornyn, below left, addressed Democratic Party opposition to “let America have a voice” in the selection of the next justice.
The state’s senior US senator said America is in an unseen state of unrest and that calls for uncommon measures.
“Our friends claim that our position, the humble proposition that the people should choose who makes that selection, is unprecedented,” he said.
“But it’s simply not the case. No president has filled a vacancy in an election year with divided government as we have today in well over a century.”
Cornyn, who is also the senate’s Republican Party whip, charged the Democrats with gamesmanship.
“I can’t help but think, while listening to our colleagues across the aisle, that if flip-flops were an Olympic sport, there might be some gold medals awarded,” he said.
One third of all US presidents have made supreme-court nominations during their last year in office. Six have done so since 1900, including Ronald Reagan, who appointed Anthony Kennedy in 1988.
In 1892, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, nominated a Democrat justice as a nod to his successor, Grover Cleveland, the first Democrat elected to the presidency after the Civil War.
Among Obama’s potential nominees is an Indian-American who could follow that model. Judge Sri Srinivasan of the Washington DC circuit, who was born in India but grew up in Kansas, has served under Ronald Reagan and a series of moderate conservatives.
When Obama nominated him for the DC circuit in 2013, a Republican-controlled senate approved him unanimously.
A Hindu, he would add religious diversity to the court if approved, while his appointment would also be poetic as it would see the replacement of Scalia, left, the court’s first Italian-American justice, by its first Indian-American justice.
But Srinivasan is not the only candidate in Obama’s sights. According to news agency Reuters, the president is also considering two other senior justices.
One is Merrick Garland, chief judge of the Washington appeals court, who was appointed by president Bill Clinton in 1997 after serving the federal justice department.
The third candidate being reported by Reuters is Paul Watford, a judge in the ninth US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. If confirmed, he would be the nation’s third black supreme-court justice, following Clarence Thomas, who was appointed in 1991, and Thurgood Marshall, who retired that year.