By Bill Kaplan
Politico reported: "Illinois (GOP) Sen. Mark Kirk chided his Republican colleagues on Friday for their unwillingness to put the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland through a vote and confirmation process" (courtesy meetings with nominee, vetting, Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and up or down votes). Kirk stepped up to the plate saying: "Just man up and cast a vote. Your whole job is to either say yes or no and explain why."
Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will opined: “The Republican Party’s incoherent response to the Supreme Court vacancy is a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle. The multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick Garland radiates insincerity”;
Politico reported: "Ohio (GOP) Gov. John Kasich on Saturday broke with much of his party on Merrick Garland, saying he'd not only consider meeting with President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court - he'd consider nominating Garland himself if he were elected president";
Former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson showed leadership: "I think the Senate has got to take on the responsibility and hold hearings" (on a Supreme Court nominee);
The Washington Post reported: "One-third of all U.S. presidents appointed a Supreme Court justice in an election year."
Regrettably, Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has not shown leadership or principles. His ever-evolving positions have made him the object of ridicule. Johnson now says: "I have no problem meeting with people....I'm not sure what the point will be." Contrast with Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin who said: "In the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation, I would encourage my Republican colleagues to give Judge Garland fair consideration."
Compare with Johnson's election year challenger, Democrat Russ Feingold, who said: "Now, it's the Senate's turn to do its job. Judge Garland is a highly credentialed jurist, and he deserves a full and fair hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee." Moreover, former Sen. Feingold walks the walk. He voted to confirm John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (nominated by President Bush). In addition, Feingold voted to confirm Wisconsin conservative Diane Sykes for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit (also nominated by Bush). Again, a sharp contrast with Johnson. There's more.
In 2010 President Obama nominated Victoria Nourse for the same 7th Circuit Court. Johnson successfully blocked the nomination in 2011, saying then and now: Nourse has "very little connection to the state of Wisconsin" and belittled her impressive legal credentials. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorialized in 2011: "That's a little rich, given that Nourse has been with the University of Wisconsin Law School since 1993.... (and) is highly qualified." Moving on. Johnson has now indicated that he is ending his blockade to filling the 7th Circuit Court vacancy, the oldest on any court of appeals. Next, he should listen to Sen. Kirk's advice: "Man up and cast a vote" for the Supreme Court vacancy.
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.