President Obama recently said Senate Republicans are obligated by the U.S. Constitution to act on his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, claiming “we’ve almost gotten accustomed to how obstructionist the Senate has become when it comes to nominations.”
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen,” Obama said in California on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
“There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years,” he continued, referring to Senate Republican leaders’ vow to hold off on confirming the next justice until after the 2016 election. “That’s not in the constitutional text.”
But in a 2006 video posted to YouTube the same day, then-Sen. Obama of Illinois provides a decidedly different take on the nomination process in a filibuster to oppose a Senate decision on Justice Samuel Alito.
“As we all know, there has been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process,” Obama said at the time.
“There are some who believe the president, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether or not the justice is intellectually capable and an all-around good guy. That once you get beyond intellect and personal character there should be no further questions as to whether the judge should be confirmed.
“I disagree with this view,” he continued. “I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent and that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology and record. When I examine the philosophy, ideology and record of Samuel Alito, I am deeply troubled.”
Of course, Obama doesn’t see the hypocrisy in his apparent flip-flopping, but is now working to address critics who were quick to point out his conflicting statements nonetheless.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the media during a daily press briefing Wednesday that the president “regrets” his unsuccessful filibuster of Alito, but maintains that the situation then and now are entirely different.
“Looking back on it, the president believes that he should have just followed his own advice and made a strong public case on the merits about his opposition to the nomination that President Bush put forward,” Earnest said, according to Fox News.
“What the president regrets is that Senate Democrats didn’t focus more on making an effective public case about those substantive objections,” he continued. “Instead, some Democrats engaged in a process of throwing sand in the gears of the confirmation process. And that’s an approach the president regrets.”
But Republicans stalling on a confirmation until the next president is seated is not the same thing, Earnest said.
“There is a pretty stark difference here,” Earnest said. “What Republicans are advocating is wrong and is inconsistent with the requirements of the Constitution, primarily because the wording in the constitution is ambiguous and does not provide and exception for election years.”