A fierce fight is already underway in the United States Senate over how and when to appoint the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor on the Supreme Court.
But I can imagine this as a golden moment for the senate to heal itself from the metastasizing partisanship which so sickens it. And none has more of an opportunity – indeed an unyielding responsibility to do so – than the senate Republicans who hold a majority.
Since Scalia’s death a few weeks ago conservatives across the country have hallowed his jurisprudence. These conservatives insist they don’t trust the president to make an acceptable nomination. They want to wait for a new president 10 months from now, hoping for a new conservative justice.
But Justice Scalia himself left crystal clear thoughts on what should happen and what the senate should do right now. Scalia always maintained that the words of the Constitution meant exactly what they said and didn’t take on nuances with time. Article 2 very clearly states that the president will “nominate” and with the advice and consent of the senate, the president appoints.
My Vermont Republican heroes were, among others, Gov. and Senator George Aiken, Gov. and Senator Bob Stafford, and Congressman and Senator Jim Jeffords. And I’d be willing to bet they’d agree with me.
Robert Frost was another quintessential New Englander and an extraordinary poet. Among his poems, my favorite is “A Road Not Taken” – a poem worth storing on a shelf in one’s memory. In it he wrote that he had two paths in the woods to choose from and he said that he took the one “less traveled”- to which he added: “And that has made all the difference.”
Members of the US Senate should think hard on these words of Frost and those of Scalia himself, take them to heart and get on with the business – the people’s business – by nominating, scrutinizing, and appointing a new justice. This is America after all - a huge identity fraught with history, profound meaning and stunning relevance in a very troubled world.