Saturday, February 27, 2016

Filibusters: #SCOTUS Obstructionists of Justice

#SCOTUS Obstructionists of Justice

Filibuster: an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically violating the required procedures. To act in an obstructive manner in a legislature, especially by speaking at inordinate length.

On Wednesday a couple colleagues {Akeem Rashad Allah/DJ Wise and Salim Adofo} and I had the privilege to be on a conference call directly from the White House with other key African American and Civil Rights Leaders around the country about the Supreme Court nomination process that was moderated by Stephanie Young and Valerie Jarrett. Stephanie Young is the Director of African American Outreach for The White House and Valerie Jarrett is the Senior Adviser to President Barack Obama and Assistant for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in his Administration. If you're unfamiliar with these women I encourage you to Google them.

Read President Obama's "A Responsibility I Take Seriously"

Following the death of Supreme Court Justice and ultra-conservative Antonin Scalia, this left a vacancy in the highest court of our country. According to our Constitution, in order to fill that vacancy the current President, in our case President Barack Obama, chooses a nominee who is then confirmed by the Senate and then appointed to that position. This is a process that requires several steps, which on average has taken 67 days since 1975, roughly two months, and every U.S. Supreme Court nominee in history has received a vote within four months. President Obama has over 300 days left to serve his second term as our commander and chief so there shouldn't be a problem nominating another Supreme Court Justice, unless of course the Senate doesn't cooperate. After our President makes his nomination it's then sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee who conducts hearings to question his nomination to determine if they'll make a suitable Supreme Court Justice. When these hearings conclude, the Judiciary Committee votes on whether the President's nomination should go to the full Senate with a good, bad or neutral report. Republicans in the Judiciary Committee, led by their chairman Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, have already made it publicly known that they are not going to vote for whoever our President nominates. The last time a Supreme Court nominee was denied a hearing was in 1875. To give you some context, this was 141 years ago during the Reconstruction Era when the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed to guarantee African Americans access to equal housing, transportation and jury duty inclusion. By delaying this nomination process and dragging their feet, these Republicans and their special-interest group supporters, could very well get their way and there are no formal repercussions by doing this. The only repercussions they face are from their constituents. So instead of upholding the Constitution and doing the job they were elected to do, they have chosen to be filibusters. The bottom line is "they" want "their people" in that position and will do whatever they can to block, obstruct and go against the Constitution and what President Obama was elected to do in serving his final term as our commander and chief. These tactics aren't new and reflect the continuous uphill battle our President and First Lady have dealt with the entire two terms they've been in office. A battle with elected officials being uncooperative, unhelpful, unsupportive and outright disrespectful. 

Members of the Republican controlled Senate and Judiciary Committee have tried to argue that the 2016 President-Elect, not our current President, should nominate a Supreme Court Justice because it's an election year. Mind you, the Senate has confirmed 6 Justices in presidential election years since 1900 including the Republican President Ronald Reagan who appointed Justice Kennedy. If the Senate fails to act, the Supreme Court could have a vacancy for the better part of two Terms. This means that without a 9th Justice, the Supreme Court's 4-4 decisions can't legally establish uniform, nationwide rules. Many have been outraged at the sense of defiance, recklessness and disrespect on the part of the Senate Judiciary Committee and according to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights & The Leadership Conference Education Fund, "a broad coalition of 82 civil rights, voting rights, public interest, environmental, labor, religious, and education groups sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and the 10 other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, condemning their recent announcement that they will refuse to hold a hearing on—or even meet with—any potential Supreme Court nominee." You can read and share this letter here

Because there are no formal repercussions the Senate Judiciary Committee will face, except from their constituents, what can we do? First I would encourage you to share this article via your social networks including the hash tags #SCOTUS and #DoYourJob.

  1. Post/Share media interviews, memes, articles and statements via your social networks that talk about the importance of the President’s constitutional duty to ensure we have a full supreme court. 
  2. Post/Share media interviews, memes, articles and statements via your social networks that talk about the role of the court, the role of the President and/or the role of Congress when a seat on the Court needs filling.  
  3. Share media interviews, memes, articles and statements in the comment section of media interviews, memes, articles and statements via your social networks.
  4. Here are a series of graphics you can Post/Share via your social networks. 
  5. Be sure to include the hash tags #SCOTUS and #DoYourJob in all of your postings and commentary. 
  6. Find out the position of your regional and local public officials on this Supreme Court nomination where you live. Require them to state this position publicly and hold them to it as a matter of their policy record -regardless if they're running for reelection this year or in the future. 
Keep in mind that this filibuster scenario that's playing out on the national stage is also happening on a regional and local level throughout America. The reason you may not see certain things getting done in your municipality, your neighborhood or in your workplace is because of the same kind of people striving to block, obstruct and go against progress. Letting our voice be heard about the Supreme Court nomination informs the Senate Judiciary Committee that we will individually/collectively use our position, finances and vote to ensure that people like them, who are not doing their job, will not be in these positions to obstruct justice. We are also informing their constituents that we will not support them, especially in business. How can you trust a business person to do the right thing for their patrons [citizens] when they're deliberately supporting public servants who are not willing to do the right thing for their tax paying citizenry? All of us as citizens are expected to do our job and the citizens we've elected as public servants need to do their jobs too. It's just that simple. 

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