Democrats Get Chance To Be The Adults

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Reason must resurface and prevail among the nation’s elected representatives.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate can take a significant step in leading the country toward reasonable governing, and away from chaos. Those senators can set an example of the steadiness, sorely needed in America right now, by resisting the understandable urge to obstruct the confirmation process for Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch.
They certainly should not just roll over. This is the chance to show the nation that there are adults in the room.
Those senators justifiably remain angered by their Republican colleagues’ disrespect for the authority of President Obama. The GOP denied any hearings on the president’s nomination of moderate, respected U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Republicans’ undemocratic behavior toward a president, elected overwhelmingly twice, left that seat empty for 293 days. That unprecedented refusal to perform their duties, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, exemplified their shameless obstruction during Obama’s eight years in office.
Tempting as it may be to deliver a payback, Democrats would do us, themselves, and the country well by taking the high road. By showing the statesmanship of Lee Hamilton and Richard Lugar.
As the minority party after November’s election of Donald Trump to the presidency, Democrats have a ripe opportunity. In just two weeks as president, Trump has proven his erratic decision-making, petulance and complete disinterest in listening to the needs of Americans who did not support him—the majority of those voting in November. While some Republicans in Congress have, rather meekly, questioned the constitutionality of Trump’s executive orders, most are tolerating him in hopes that he will deliver on their pet priorities.
The nation needs wisdom. The nation needs statesmanship. Senate Democrats should support the democratic process and let the confirmation hearings for Gorsuch’s nomination unfold in a timely fashion. His judicial track record contains areas of concern, which several senators have cited already. They should vigorously question Gorsuch on those topics during the hearings and vote their conscience. His legal qualifications merit thoughtful consideration and the senators should weigh those carefully, too.
But be very certain: questioning should not be construed as obstructing.
It is true that Obama, not Trump, should have been the president to appoint the justice to replace Scalia, who died a year ago. But gridlock and polarized politics have proliferated on Capitol Hill during the past quarter-century, and congressional Republicans’ behavior since 2009 has worsened the situation. They elevated their want for a conservative Supreme Court above the American system of democracy.
Democrats, by contrast, should exhibit respect for the process of representative government, fought for and won through high sacrifice. Gorsuch deserves a confirmation hearing with thorough vetting by the Senate.
The nation deserves sane, rational leadership at a moment when visible examples of that quality are in such small supply.
(The Tribune-Star contributed to this week’s column.)