In our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Senate has a co-equal role with the President in appointing federal judges, since it must provide its “advice and consent” before any nominee becomes a judge. Judicial nominees – who are confirmed for lifetime appointments – must be subject to the highest standard of scrutiny. Federal judges’ decisions – especially the rulings of Supreme Court justices – last long after the presidents who appointed them are no longer in office.
Given the power that rests with the Supreme Court, no president’s nominee is presumptively entitled to confirmation. Instead, a nominee bears the burden of demonstrating that he or she meets the appropriate qualifications, which must include a demonstrated commitment to civil rights and individual liberties, and a clear respect for Congress’ proper constitutional role in protecting constitutional and civil rights and the health and safety of all Americans.
Since President Bush has signaled both in word and in deed that he intends to nominate Supreme Court justices who do not share these commitments, senators have an urgent responsibility to take their constitutional obligation seriously and oppose with every appropriate means at their disposal the confirmation of Supreme Court justices who would wreak havoc on Americans’ lives and liberties.