Four years of obstructionism. That’s what Republican Sen. Richard Burr promised supporters if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
“And if Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” Burr told supporters in Mooresville Saturday. CNN obtained an audio recording, which it posted late Monday.
More news attention was paid to Burr’s quip about a bull’s-eye being put over Hillary Clinton’s picture. The senator apologized for the “inappropriate” remark, which drew laughter from his audience.
But his statement about blocking any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Clinton during her entire term is much more significant. Burr’s partisan listeners applauded, but no American should approve of such an action.
Burr is now the third Republican senator to suggest this strategy, following John McCain and Ted Cruz. People should believe it. If it were carried out, it would rival President Franklin Roosevelt’s “court packing” scheme of the 1930s, when he tried to overcome Supreme Court opposition to some of his New Deal programs by enlarging it with sympathetic justices.
It appears that at least some Republican senators, including Burr, are planning a court unpacking, waiting for attrition to reduce it to a 4-3 conservative majority. That could happen if the current vacancy remains and the next justice to depart is the oldest, liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Burr’s campaign did not respond Tuesday to a request for further explanation of the senator’s remark.
It was already disappointing that Burr joined fellow Republican senators after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia in refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill that vacancy.
“In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president,” Burr said then.
But now he won’t even honor that statement if the American people elect Clinton. Instead, he’ll substitute his own judgment for that of the voters.
If Burr is re-elected, he must exercise his constitutional duty of advice and consent. If he finds a nominee unsuitable or unqualified, he should explain why and vote against confirming that person.
That’s not what he promised Saturday. He said he will oppose anyone Clinton nominates, which means he won’t make a fair and honest evaluation. He won’t fulfill his constitutional responsibility.
We already have endorsed Democratic challenger Deborah Ross in this race, in part because of Burr’s obstructionism to date. Burr’s position on future Supreme Court nominees strongly reinforces our view that he has been in Washington long enough and that a change is needed.