It’s Only the Supreme Court. Take Your Time!

Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his retirement later this year prompted Alexandra Petri, the Washington Post’s humor columnist, to comment. But the situation ain’t funny:ย 

Some things are urgent, such as, for instance, filling a Supreme Court vacancy. Other things are not urgent, such as, for instance, filling a Supreme Court vacancy. Sometimes it is a little hard to know which one it is. It depends on whom you ask โ€” Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2016, or Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2020.

Now, Justice Stephen G. Breyer has retired (thanks for reading, Justice Breyer!), and it is time to locate a new jurist who will be willing to sit around for the next several decades writing withering dissents and waiting for her colleagues to die. And being warmly collegial, of course! It sounds depressing when you put it like that, but that is how the Founding Fathers designed it.

We had better proceed at a speed of some sort! Yes, now is either the time to grind to a halt, or to move forward with blazing rapidity from nomination to confirmation in 30 days . . .

Of course, the president presides over a Senate majority that could evaporate at any moment, which sounds urgent! But that president is a Democrat, so, a wash.

Sure, we have been rushed before. โ€œI felt that the timetable for the last nominee was too compressed,โ€ said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). After all, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed in such a short period of time that a Texan who became pregnant at the beginning of the process would still have been allowed to get an abortion when it ended . . .

โ€œThis time,” Collins continued, “there is no need for any rush. We can take our time, have hearings, go through the process. It is a lifetime appointment, after all.โ€ So true! Now is the time to really sit and deliberate. The past two nominees were, only in the strictest and most literal sense, the deciding votes that could overturn Roe v. Wade; this nominee will be the one who has to sit there collegially dissenting after it happens, a role that requires a great deal more scrutiny.

We have hurried into this sort of thing before, and we can see how that turned out. (Please shout โ€œWell!โ€ or โ€œBadly!” after a count of three so that we can see how apolitical a body the court currently is!) Now is no time to be hasty. The time to be hasty was earlier, after the failure of the Merrick Garland nomination to get a hearing but before the nomination of whoever this will be, when we were ramming new justices into forever appointments at astounding speeds and having the time of our lives.

Now, we should take our sweet time. We should get out our big reading glasses and a huge stack of books and proceed with enormous care. No rush! Itโ€™s fine! Nothing can go wrong. The Senate appears very functional. President Biden is in office, with a wafer-thick zero seats to spare! We have world enough and time at last, and we can finally do all the detailed, lengthy vetting that we have been meaning to do all this time but couldnโ€™t, for some reason.

Thereโ€™s no excuse to cut corners now. This time, the FBI might even have the leisure to follow up on the tips it receives.