Supreme Court vacancy: Grassley has a responsibility to lead

U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd R) meets with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, at the White House in Washington March 1, 2016. From L-R: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Vice President Joe Biden, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). REUTERS/Yuri Gripas      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd R) meets with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, at the White House in Washington March 1, 2016. From L-R: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Vice President Joe Biden, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). REUTERS/Yuri Gripas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

After 35 years serving Iowa in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Grassley is squandering his leadership and legacy by pledging to ignore any U.S. Supreme Court nominee proposed by the executive branch.

Following a closed-door meeting this week between President Barack Obama and members of Congress, Grassley reiterated his position that the nomination process should be postponed until after a presidential election nine months in the future.

“The American people deserve the right to be heard,” Grassley said, reciting an oft-repeated party line. Inexplicably, he touted the position as “fair and reasonable.”

We find it fair and reasonable to expect elected officials to take their duties seriously and resist the lure of political gamesmanship.

Grassley is far from alone on this obstructionist path, even among members of Iowa’s congressional delegation. U.S. Rep. Steve King is leading a House task force to challenge “executive overreach” by President Obama. Joni Ernst, Iowa’s junior senator, has co-sponsored a bill to limit the ability of the executive branch to propose federal regulations between Election Day in November and Inauguration Day in January.

But Grassley’s seniority, the respect he’s earned over decades in public office and his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee put him in a unique position to call for his party to fulfill its responsibility to govern, which makes his refusal to lead all the more disappointing.

The American people have been heard. They were heard in 2008 when Obama was elected president, and in 2012 when he was chosen for a second term. Those elections are no less important than the 2014 midterms that gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, and led to Grassley’s selection as the first nonlawyer chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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President Obama is constitutionally required to name a nominee. Grassley, as chairman, is likewise bound to lead the process of “advice and consent” in the Senate.

Neither political party arrives at this judicial crossroads with clean hands. Yet the overt obstructionism that Senate Republicans are promising represents a new low, far below Iowans’ expectations of their senior senator.

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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