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Resolutions & Amendments

42nd International Convention - Las Vegas, NV (2016)

Senate Must End Obstruction and Vote on Judicial Nominees

Resolution No. 56
42nd International Convention
Las Vegas Convention Center
July 18 - 22, 2016
Las Vegas, NV


It is the obligation of the President of the United States, under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, to nominate Supreme Court justices. Further, it is the constitutional obligation of members of the U.S. Senate to provide “advice and consent” to these nominations, by holding hearings and taking votes to determine the nominees’ fitness to serve on the court; and


Within hours of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had announced that they would not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nomination made by President Obama, nor would they even offer a courtesy meeting to a nominee. This refusal prior to any nomination by the President indicates that it is not in reaction to the qualifications or ideology of a nominee; but clearly an attempt to block the President’s power to make judicial nominations, disregarding the crucial constitutional concept of separation of powers, and politicizing and crippling our judicial system; and


President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy. An experienced jurist with impeccable credentials, Judge Garland is the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to serving on the appellate court, Garland supervised the prosecution of domestic terrorism cases at the U.S. Department of Justice, including those of Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski. Garland has received praise from many prominent Republicans, including Ken Starr, who served as U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, calling him “superbly qualified to serve on our nation’s highest court.” Still, Senate Republicans refuse to hold a hearing on his nomination; and


Republican senators’ publicized reasoning that there is precedent for refusing to consider judicial nominations in an election year is patently false. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan nominee, was confirmed unanimously by a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate in 1988, proving that it is possible for a Senate majority opposing a sitting President to disregard partisan politics and focus

on judicial qualifications when it chooses to do so. Indeed, every Supreme Court nominee since 1875 has had a hearing or a vote; and


The refusal by Republican senators to do their constitutional duty has left the Supreme Court unable to definitively decide monumental cases involving affirmative action, abortion, immigration and labor rights. Without a ninth justice, the court can only uphold a lower court ruling for the time being, if it makes a 4-4 split decision. We need a ninth justice to make decisions establishing the rule of law on issues of fundamental importance to the American people; and


This obstructionism is not limited to the U.S. Supreme Court, but extends to nominees throughout the federal judicial system. In January of 2015, there were 12 pending judicial nominees to federal courts that were awaiting consideration by the U.S. Senate; and by January of 2016, that number had grown to 54 nominees who were being denied a hearing. Further, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has stated that this obstruction has resulted in 30 judicial emergencies, defined as vacancies longer than 18 months or in jurisdictions with excessive filings – up from 12 such emergency situations in January of 2015. These judicial emergencies mean that ordinary Americans are being denied their day in court due to the backlog of cases; and


An overwhelming 69% majority of Americans say that Senate Republicans should consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and take an up-or-down vote. Even staunchly conservative, pro-business publications such as Fortune Magazine have called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings as soon as possible on the Garland nomination.


That AFSCME demands members of the Senate Judiciary Committee do their job by immediately holding hearings on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, followed by an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate on the nominee; and


That AFSCME demands members of the Senate Judiciary Committee do their job by proceeding without further delay on hearings for federal judicial nominees awaiting consideration; and


That AFSCME will educate voters in the 2016 elections about the harm brought about by judicial obstruction, and will hold accountable those members of the U.S. Senate who have tried to deny justice to the American people.