Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday became the first Republican to say he might be willing to vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, The Hill reports.
“Obviously I would consider voting for him,” the Illinois senator told reporters before he met with the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. “That’s the whole purpose.”
Kirk, who is facing a difficult reelection race this year, rebuked his colleagues for refusing to give any consideration to the judge.
“We need open-minded, rational, responsible people to keep an open mind to make sure the process works,” Kirk told a throng of reporters packed in his Capitol office. “I think when you just say ‘I’m not going to meet with him at all,’ that’s too close-minded.”
Kirk’s meeting with Garland — the first by any Republican on Capitol Hill — came just hours after the Supreme Court issued its first major split decision since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The 4-4 deadlock represented a major victory to labor unions, which had faced the possibility of mandatory union fees being overturned for public sector workers.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) took a swing at his party Friday, saying Republicans need to “man up” and give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a vote, The Hill reports.
“Just man up and cast a vote. The tough thing about these senatorial jobs is you get yes or no votes. Your whole job is to either say yes or no and explain why,” he told “The Big John Howell Show” on WLS-AM in Chicago.
The Illinois Republican, who faces a tough reelection bid, was quick to break with the party’s strategy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court pick from getting a hearing, a vote or, in most cases, a meeting.
He told The Hill last month he would accept a meeting with the president’s nominee and added this week that “I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications.”
A new CNN/ORC poll finds a majority of Americans want president Obama to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities and nominate a replacement Supreme Court Justice for the seat recently vacated by the passing of Antonin Scalia.
Overall, 58% say they’d like to see the President nominate someone to the Court rather than leave the seat vacant until a new president takes office next year, 41% would prefer a vacancy.
And more — 66% — say that whomever Obama nominates should get a hearing in the Senate. But once that happens, 48% say that if most or all Republicans in the Senate oppose Obama’s nominee, they would be justified in preventing a vote to confirm him or her.
Obama has said he does plan to nominate someone for the seat, and has called on the Senate to vote on his nominee. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has said the Senate Judiciary Committee would not hold hearings on any nominee put forward by Obama, nor would the full body vote on Obama’s choice.
After the passing of Justice Scalia, President Obama announced his intentions to nominate Scalia’s successor “in due time.”
“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to name a successor in due time,” Mr. Obama said. “And there will be plenty of time for me to do so,
Mr. Obama also paid tribute to Scalia, calling him “a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style.”
Justice Scalia, a staunch conservative and some would argue, an activist judge on the Supreme Court bench, died of natural causes in Texas on February 13th. He was 79 years old.
The end result is in reach for those conservatives who have worked so hard to destroy public sector unions and along with them, the rest of the middle class.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association about the legality of public unions charging people who don’t want to join them an agency fee that amounts to almost a full dues payment. The teachers who brought the case are arguing that everything public sector unions do is political since they use public taxpayer money for their contracts. And since, in their view, everything is political, the plaintiffs say that their first amendment rights are being violated because they’re being forced to support an entity, the union, that they don’t agree with.
The controlling opinion on this issue is a 1977 decision in the Abood case in Detroit. Back when the Supreme Court had conservatives who saw the value of unions, the court said that agency fees were constitutional. From the article:
In 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which established the constitutional principle at stake in Friedrichs, Justice Potter Stewart acknowledged that compelling someone to support their bargaining units may affect their First Amendment rights. He listed several instances of employees disagreeing with the views of their union — on abortion, race relations, even unionism itself. But ultimately, Stewart acknowledged that “such interference” with a person’s views is “constitutionally justified” so as to allow “the important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations established by Congress.”
It seems almost quaint, the idea that the union movement is important. That’s what 30+ years of unrelenting opposition and hostility to worker’s rights and decent wages will do to a country.
What’s even more interesting and sad in a way, is the argument from the teachers (yes, teachers) who brought this case. Not everything a public union does is political. And any union or agency employee has the absolute right to speak out, to suggest ideas and to protest what they believe to be unfair actions that the union takes. Further, the union negotiates salary, benefits and working conditions for every employee, whether they are union members or not. If the fees were struck down, then many members would be benefiting from negotiations for free.
It gets even better. Harlan Elrich, one of the teachers in the case, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed,
“That the union would presume to push, allegedly on my behalf, for higher salaries at the expense of smaller class sizes and avoiding teacher layoffs is preposterous”
He’s also quoted in the New York Times as saying,
“I can negotiate for myself. I’m a good teacher, highly respected, and I can go anywhere.”
There are two terrifically dangerous assumptions at work here. The first is that we have a teacher who doesn’t want the union to ask for higher salaries for all teachers. Mr. Elrich might be doing fine financially, but many other teachers – including those in New Jersey who are taking home less pay every year because of increasingly burdensome health insurance payments – are not doing as well and are falling behind or struggling just to maintain a middle class life after going to college and starting their lives.
The second problem is his assumption that he, or any teacher, would be better off negotiating his own salary and benefits. In fact, Mr. Erlich is contradicting himself mightily by accusing the union of negotiating salaries beyond the means of the town to pay them, and maintaining that he can negotiate perhaps a better salary on his own, with the money coming from the same taxpayer pockets. And if he wants to seriously negotiate smaller class sizes and avoid teacher layoffs, then he should join the union and push for those things rather than try to freeload and then complain.
Having teachers becoming free agents is exactly what the corporate conservatives want because, like me, they understand that teachers are not really in a good position when it comes to negotiating for themselves. The reason? Because the public respect teachers for the job they do for their children, but they also think teachers get paid too much for a 10 month job. Mr. Ehrlich is likely in for a rude awakening if he wins and then goes to his Superintendent or Business Administrator and is offered less money because of thousands of new college graduates willing to take his job at, I’m guessing, about $30,000 dollars less.
It is incumbent upon all teacher’s unions to spend the rest of this school year explaining to their members why it’s important to stick together, and to remind them what teaching life was like before the association movement. Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts would surely love for people to forget salaries that required second jobs and administrative fiats that subverted the dignity and respect that teachers deserve.
All might not be lost at the Court because we never really know what the Justices are thinking (remember the two Affordable Care Act cases and marriage equality), but this one will be close and we don’t have Potter Stewart to fight for the value of unions. But we do have ourselves. I hope that’s enough.
He didn’t use these words, but his message was the same – Obamacare is here to stay!
Republicans are moving quickly. On Tuesday, they scare the American people into giving them control of Congress and now, two days later, the Republican led Supreme Court has announced that it will hear a case whose purpose is to gut Obamacare and destroy it from within.
ThinkProgress reports: In an unexpected step into a politically charged case, the Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would hear a lawsuit seeking to strip health care from millions of Americans.
The Affordable Care Act gives states a choice whether they will set up their own health exchange where consumers can buy health insurance or whether to allow the federal government to do so for them. This lawsuit alleges that subsidies helping individuals buy health insurance are only available in exchanges run by a state, not by the feds. If it succeeds, the likely result will be a “death spiral” where higher premiums cause healthy consumers to drop out of the insurance market, which will cause higher premiums, which will cause more consumers to drop their insurance. Eventually, many states’ individual insurance markets are likely to collapse if this lawsuit prevails.