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Merrick Garland Deserves a Vote—For Democracy’s Sake

Playing political football with a Supreme Court nomination erodes the rule of law and leaves major issues in limbo.

Federal Judge Merrick Garland on Capitol Hill in April. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

July 17, 2016 7:21 p.m. ET

For more than 40 years, there has been an average of just over two months between a president’s nominating someone to the Supreme Court and that person’s receiving a hearing in Congress. It has now been more than four months since I nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—and Congress left town for a seven-week recess without giving him a hearing, let alone an up-or-down vote.​

This is much more serious than your typical case of Washington dysfunction. And if we allow it to continue, the consequences of congressional inaction could weaken our most important institutions, erode public trust and undermine our democracy.

​Every Supreme Court nominee since 1875 who hasn’t withdrawn from the process has received a hearing or a vote. Even when the nominee was controversial. Even when the Senate and the White House were held by different parties.​

But Chief Judge Garland isn’t controversial. He has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in our history. He is widely respected by people of both political parties as a man of experience, integrity and unimpeachable qualifications. The partisan decision of Senate Republicans to deny a hearing to a judge who has served his country with honor and dignity is not just an insult to a good man—it is an unprecedented escalation of the stakes. It threatens the very process by which we nominate judges, regardless of who our next president is. And it should concern every American who cares about the rule of law and upholding the institutions that make our democracy work.

​Here’s why. Historically, when a president nominates a Supreme Court justice—regardless of when in the presidential term this occurs—the Senate is obligated to act. Senators are free to vote their conscience. But they vote. That’s their job.

​If Republicans in the Senate refuse even to consider a nominee in the hopes of running out the clock until they can elect a president from their own party, so that he can nominate his own justice to the Supreme Court, then they will effectively nullify the ability of any president from the opposing party to make an appointment to the nation’s highest court. They would reduce the very functioning of the judicial branch of the government to another political leverage point.

​We cannot allow the judicial confirmation process to descend into an endless cycle of political retaliation. There would be no path to fill a vacancy for the highest court in the land. The process would stall. Court backlogs would grow. An entire branch of government would be unable to fulfill its constitutional role. And some of the most important questions of our time would go unanswered.

This is troubling for two reasons. First, a functioning judiciary—at every level—is essential to the business of the nation. For example, last month, a deadlocked Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision on several major issues, leaving the law itself in limbo. Across the country, judicial vacancies are leaving some lower courts so overwhelmed they can barely make it through their dockets. Twenty-nine judicial emergencies have been declared by lower courts across the country. This has real implications for jurisprudence, real financial costs to the judicial system and real consequences in the lives of people awaiting the outcomes of those cases.

​Second, treating the Supreme Court like a political football makes the American people more cynical about democracy. When the Supreme Court becomes a proxy for political parties, public confidence in the notion of an impartial, independent judiciary breaks down. And the resulting lack of trust can undermine the rule of law.

So here’s an idea. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could agree to give Chief Judge Garland a hearing when they return from their extended recess, while also committing to give every future qualified Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote within an established time frame. It’s a good idea that my predecessor, President George W. Bush, suggested during his time in office. This reasonable proposal would prevent the confirmation process from breaking down beyond repair, and help restore good faith between the two parties.

In my travels around the world as president, I have seen how hard democracy is—how it takes more than a proclamation or even an election. Democracies depend on the institutions we build, the rules upon which the nation is founded, and the traditions, customs and habits of heart that guide our behavior and ensure that political differences never override the founding ideals that bind us. And it is on us—all of us—to preserve and protect them.

Now we need Congress to act. We need senators to demonstrate that, once again, America has the capacity to rise above disagreements and maintain a fidelity to the values that, for 240 years, have made this extraordinary experiment a success. That’s what the American people deserve—and it’s what makes ours the greatest country the world has ever known.

Mr. Obama is the president of the United States.

This article was extracted from the Wall Street Journal Online website on July 18, 2016


October 29, 2015 Bishop Baltimore along with other National Black Church Leaders were on Capitol Hill to deliver 10,000 signatures from black leaders representing 13 million church members supporting Climate Change.

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON – September 24, 2015, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to the President’s third Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:
         Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore – Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:

President Obama said, “I am confident that these outstanding men and women

will serve the American people well, and I look forward to working with them.”

 (read the entire press release by clicking here)

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, leaders of the National African American Clergy Network along with 17 African-American religious leaders sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid calling on them to fully consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court. 
Following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many republican Senators have stated opposition to President Obama appointing a replacement to the Court. Senator McConnell has stated his intent to have the seat remain vacant for at least a year – an unprecedented move by Senate leadership – and one that would leave a vacancy of this length on the Supreme Court for the first time since the Nixon era.
Full text of the letter sent to Senator McConnell and Senator Harry Reid is below. 
February 22, 2016
The Honorable Mitch McConnell  
Majority Leader
United States Senate 
317 Russell Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Harry Reid
Democratic Leader 
United States Senate 
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Leader McConnell and Senator Reid, 

We write as a coalition of African American clergy, calling on the United States Senate to fully consider the nominee to the United States Supreme Court that will be sent to the Senate by President Barack Obama.

It is unthinkable that members of the Senate and candidates for the highest office of the land would desire to put on hold for almost a year the fulfillment of urgent presidential and constitutional obligations. While this delay occurs, critical decisions will hang in the balance that impact millions of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike.  In our opinion, the obstruction projected by some members of the Senate is immoral, unwise, undemocratic and unconstitutional. Moreover, it is an affront to the dignity of the office held by our President. 

The historical precedent is clear. Since 1900, 6 justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year.  Moreover, since 1975, it has only taken an average of 67 days to confirm a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, and since 1875: Every Supreme Court nominee has received a Senate hearing or a vote. We urge you not to violate this precedent in the service of partisanship or fear. 

As Christians, Romans 13:1 reminds us, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” We also believe the words of the Constitution that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint …Judges of the supreme Court.” Taken together, the moral call is clear: respect the authority of the President, and that of the Constitution, and consider fairly and fully his nominee. 
The Reverend Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network
The Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network
The Reverend Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network
Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, Bishop of Global Alliance Interfaith Network
Bishop George Battle, Senior Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church
The Reverend Dr. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church
The Reverend Joshua DuBois, President, Values Partnerships
The Reverend Gerald Durley, Co-Chair, Regional Council of Churches
The Reverend Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church
The Reverend Yvonne D. Hawkins, Alfred Street Baptist Church, Social Justice Ministry 
Bishop Donald Hilliard, Senior Pastor, Cathedral International
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair, Social Action Commission, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Presiding Prelate, 10th Episcopal District (Texas), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
The Reverend  Dr. Calvin McKinney LHD, General Secretary, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
The Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ
The Reverend Dr. James C. Perkins, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention,Inc.
Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick,III, Senior Bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church
The Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church
Bishop Talbert W. Swan, III, Spring of Hope Church Of God In Christ
Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, Presiding Bishop, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, International

BREAKING NEWS: Black Clergy Call on Senate to Consider Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee 

National Black Leaders United


                    September 12, 2014, Issue 1

G.A.I.N. Organization Announced

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., is now the President/CEO of Global Alliance Interfaith Networks, LLC (G.A.I.N.). Dr. Baltimore has spent over 30 years as a religious leader working with issues affecting the quality of life of people around the globe. G.A.I.N. was organized for collaboration and networking with individuals and leaders of faith-based and other organizations to strategize, plan and take action on common religious, social and economical issues and concerns at the local, national and international levels.  G.A.I.N. is working with grassroots and leaders across denominational, national, cultural and religious orientations to address global concerns.  Dr. Baltimore’s passion for the well-being of others and moral imperatives have earned him respect and credibility here and abroad.  He served as the 19th President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. and has other ministries in missions, education, social justice and human rights, eco-justice and health to his credit as a leader and organizer.

To reach G.A.I.N., you can contact Bishop Baltimore at:

Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore
Global Alliance Interfaith Networks, LLC
110 Maryland Ave., N.E., Suite #203
Washington, D.C. 20002
Phone: 571-331-3874
Email: cab4souls@aol.com
Website: www.globalallianceinterfaithnetworks.org

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