February 26, 2016

THE HILL: Obama to meet McConnell, Grassley to discuss Supreme Court vacancy.

President Obama will convene a long-anticipated meeting at the White House next Tuesday with top Republican senators to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) will both attend, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

The spokesman said the meeting was arranged “after a number of conversations, some more awkward than others.”

“Ulimately, the president is going to fulfill his duty and it will be up to the Senate to decide if they’re going to fulfill theirs,” Earnest said of the leaders’ handling of the nomination process.

Well, the Senate can “fulfill its duty” by refusing to vote, of course, as Earnest and Obama (probably) know. And my advice to McConnell and Grassley is to do just that. But if you’re looking for a reasonable “advice and consent” compromise, there’s always this:

I propose that the Senate put together its own list of candidates for each Supreme Court vacancy, and forward that list to the President. This list would constitute the “advice” portion of the Senate’s constitutional role. The President could then do one of two things-she could select a nominee from the list, who would be presumed competent based on the Senate’s earlier screening and would be given approval according to some sort of accelerated procedure (much as in “fast track” trade legislation), or she could select someone not on the list, in which case the confirmation process would take place as usual.

Under this process both sides would be encouraged not to be too political in their selections: if the Senate loaded its list with ideologues, the President would ignore it, forcing the Senate to undergo the traditional confirmation process. On the other hand, the President also would be encouraged to avoid ideologues and give the Senate’s list serious consideration, and to select from it so long as its candidates were reasonable, in order to escape the agonies of the full-blown Senate confirmation process as it has become. Furthermore, if the President did not select from the list, there would be a basis for comparison, as people (and Senators) could decide whether the President’s candidate met the same standards as the members of the Senate’s list.

And the proposal dates back to the first Bush Administration, so nobody can accuse it of current-day partisanship.

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