Dear Senator Cruz,
I’ve read your recent letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell stating your intention to block any vote on a nominee for the Supreme Court until next year. You and your fellow Republicans refer to this commitment as an “exercise of constitutional power” designed to “protect the will of the American people.”
since the American people elected President Obama twice by wide margins;
since we voters understood at the time that there was a high probability there would be a Supreme Court appointment during his term;
since “a full and robust debate” is exactly what this constitutional process is designed to produce,
then please know that “the American people” already have made our will perfectly clear: we want President Obama to choose the next justice for the Supreme Court.
The American people want you and other Senators to receive the President’s nominee respectfully. We want you to offer fair hearings. We want you to advise and consent based on the merits of the nominee, not on your particular pet ideologies. THIS is the “constitutional power” entrusted to you.
Our Founders created this impressive document in the midst of great debate and diversity. It represents a commitment to the principles of compromise and collaboration. It models a wise, ongoing approach of respectful negotiation between strong differences of opinion. Its spirit of e pluribus unum sets the stage well for our life together as an increasingly diverse community.
When you refuse compromise and collaboration, you dishonor the spirit of the Constitution.
When you elevate the preferences of one group of Americans over the “common good” of all Americans, you dishonor the spirit of the Constitution.
When you allow your particular sectarian understandings to close your mind to the wider wisdom of your fellow Americans, you dishonor the spirit of the Constitution.
When you misrepresent the tradition of “advising and consenting” during election years and attempt to deceive the American people on this matter, you dishonor the spirit of the Constitution.
When you disrespect the office of President of the United States, you dishonor the spirit of the Constitution.
Claiming “constitutional authority” to thus dishonor the very Constitution you purport to serve is an especially grievous fiction.
As you know, I am a Christian theologian and pastor, not a constitutional scholar. But since I am one of your constituents from Texas, I am bold to speak out. I have spent much of my life negotiating with various religious people who act as if their particular interpretation of what is “right” should take precedence over anyone else’s equally valid opinion. This self-righteous attitude has damaged countless communities of faith.
If I, as a pastoral leader, were to push through my own “righteous” agenda instead of listening to and respecting the varied perspectives of other faithful people within my congregation, that would be a significant breach of pastoral ethics. Not to mention short sighted and fool hardy. No matter how “right” we might believe ourselves to be, living together within any community demands humility and sometimes a willingness to yield personal “rights” for the good of the whole.
Senator Cruz, instead of using intransigence as a badge of honor; instead of boasting about your refusal to compromise and celebrating your obstructionist approaches, I urge you to respect the wide wisdom of the American people and to honor the constitutional process our Founders have put into place.
Your “constitutional authority” to “advice and consent” is to be done in the name of the American people.
Please listen to us. ALL of us.
Rev. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
Senator Cruz’s press release states: “For 80 years it has been the practice that the Senate has not confirmed any nomination made during an election year, and we shouldn’t make an exception now.”
See these two excellent SCOTUS blogs that take issue with his claim. These are helpful essays that offer more discussion about the American history of advising and consenting on Supreme Court nominees during presidential election years.
Amy Howe, Supreme Court vacancies in presidential election years, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 13, 2016, 11:55 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/02/supreme-court-vacancies-in-presidential-election-years/
Michael Gerhardt, Getting the Senate’s responsibilities on Supreme Court nominations right, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 9, 2016, 11:10 AM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/03/getting-the-senates-responsibilities-on-supreme-court-nominations-right/
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.