Tag: vacant

Senate Republicans evade their constitutional duty

Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.

However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.

By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)

The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).

The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.

From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.

How the vacant office of Illinois Comptroller will be filled

Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican Comptroller of Illinois, died early this morning after suffering a stroke. She was 70 years of age at the time of death.

I’m not an attorney, but here’s the part of the Illinois Constitution that deals with filling vacancies in the state comptroller’s office (Article V, Section 7):

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

This is an instance in which both the incumbent comptroller failed to qualify for a new term after being elected to a second term and died in office before completing her first term in office. Since I’m not sure if Illinois state law allows for a special election to fill the vacancy (the Illinois Constitution appears to allow the General Assembly to provide for special elections for comptroller if it wishes to pass a law in order to do so, but doesn’t require special elections for comptroller), I’m going to provide two scenarios for filling the vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office; one scenario involves a special election being called and the other scenario involves no special election being called.

SCENARIO #1: SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone until a successor chosen by voters in a special statewide election for comptroller is sworn into office.
  • The special election would be held either in the spring of 2015 (possibly at the same time as the Chicago mayoral election and other local elections across the state), the fall of 2016 (possibly at the same time as the presidential and U.S. Senate elections), or on some other date as specified by any law allowing for a special election for comptroller.

SCENARIO #2: NO SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office.
  • The next general election for comptroller is scheduled for November 2018, meaning that whoever is appointed by either Quinn or Rauner would, depending on the date that the appointee takes office, serve slightly more or less than a full four-year term as comptroller.

If someone can definitively tell me what procedure is used for filling a vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office, let me know by leaving a comment on this blog post.