Obstruction, Your Honour!

Republican politicians didn’t beat around the bush after Barack Obama’s first year in power.

In 2010, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Back then, the Democrats controlled the Senate. The nuisance power of the Republicans was real but limited. Everything changed once Republicans retook control in January 2015.

Since then, they have certainly done everything in their power to put spokes in the president’s wheels. It’s both disappointing and counterproductive.

But, we may have seen nothing yet. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death seems to be leading to their most brutal and momentous attack. Republicans say they’re determined to stop Barack Obama from naming a Supreme Court justice.

In the United States, the president selects Supreme Court justices, but it’s the Senate that has the last word. At the end of several public hearings, senators decide whether or not to give the candidate the green light.

This time, a significant number of Republican senators have promised to put their foot down once Barack Obama announces his choice.

They want to wait until the Democratic president’s successor enters office … in January 2017! Obviously, they hope it will be a Republican.

It’s important to keep in mind that in the United States, Supreme Court justice nominations are very political. Antonin Scalia was one of five justices named by former Republican presidents. There are also four progressive justices, who were selected by Democrats.

Thus, the country’s highest tribunal leans to the right. This would be reversed if the Democratic president named a justice with more progressive ideas than those of Antonin Scalia — which wouldn’t be hard.

Considering the crucial role this tribunal’s judges play in deciding on major issues (abortion and immigration, among other topics, will be on the table in the upcoming months), there is a lot at stake.

Not only is Republican obstructionism partisan and ill-advised, it also discredits the U.S. Senate and Supreme Court. Furthermore, it sheds a bit of light on the shortcomings of the world superpower’s political system.

Compared to them, we feel a lot better about ourselves, of course. But the soon-to-come fiasco in the United States can also be used as a lesson.

Prior to his defeat, Stephen Harper unfortunately had begun to draw inspiration from the U.S. model. His last two nominations to the Supreme Court (including Marc Nadon’s invalidated candidacy) seem to have been driven first and foremost by ideology.

The Trudeau government should not be tempted to follow this path. Instead, federal members of the Canadian Parliament should find a way to make the process more transparent and less partisan. Canadian democracy and the judiciary would greatly benefit from this.

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