“History is about to be made,” said former state senator for Ohio’s 25th district, Nina Turner, “and not in a good way.’’
At a Cleveland news conference, she noted that July 19 will mark the 125th day since President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the empty Supreme Court seat, which is the longest the Senate has ever made a Supreme Court nominee wait for a vote. “This record-breaking obstruction concocted by Senate Republicans is crippling our Supreme Court and our democracy, and Americans – including our families and children – are paying the price every day,’’ Turner said.
Knowing that many who need to be persuaded are Republicans, allies arrived in Cleveland with a large panel truck festooned with this 1987 quote from Ronald Reagan: “The time is now right to join together in a bipartisan effort to fulfill our constitutional obligation of restoring the United States Supreme Court to full strength.”
After leaving the news conference, the SCOTUS advocacy truck headed to the Cleveland office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who has embraced obstructionism over the court. “I just heard Rob Portman on the radio calling for Americans to come together in a bipartisan fashion on another topic,’’ Turner said. “I am here to tell him to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan and DO YOUR JOB. If many of us didn’t do our jobs, we’d lose our jobs.’’
Those who joined her talked of the real-world impact the short-staffed court has had on Americans and the court. The court deadlock on some high-profile cases, including one that attempted to determine whether religious-affiliated organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, can be excluded from the Affordable Care Act requirement of paying for birth control and other contraceptive health coverage in their employee health care plans. The Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts, leaving many women who need affordable birth control uncertain about their future, explained nurse practitioner Christine Williams.
“Access to affordable contraception is a woman’s right, regardless of her religious beliefs,’’ Williams said. “In my 35 years as a family nurse practitioner, I witnessed women cry when they realized their health insurance didn’t pay for contraception. Contraception not only allows for planned families, it saves families.’’
Jonathan Entin, professor of constitutional law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, stated that the U.S. Supreme court was designed to have nine members and has had nine members for 150 years. Professor Entin said of the delay: “If the Senate doesn’t act now, not only will the Supreme Court have been short-handed for the majority of this term. It most likely will be short-handed through all or most of the next term – even if the Senate is pro-active.”
Those seeking justice from the U.S. Supreme Court may never get it with less than a full bench. “It is more difficult to get worthy cases taken up by the Court because a minimum of four Justices must want to hear the case before the Court can review it,” said Entin.
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