Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

But in a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Barack Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has cited a brand new historical precedent dictating that presidents in the last year of their term don’t name new justices to the high court.

“Therefore,” McConnell babbled, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Mitch McConnell wins reelection

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

What a silly old squirrel McConnell is. Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president, with the “advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, [and] judges of the Supreme Court.”

Note that the Constitution says the president “shall” do this — as a duty to the nation.

Nothing in the founding document suggests that this responsibility is voided in an election year. In fact, every single election-year vacancy in the last 116 years has been filled. McConnell’s assertion is bogus — and silly. History and the Constitution clearly back Obama.

Ironically, Scalia himself would have nailed McConnell for such a slapstick political perversion of plain language in our founding document. He practiced what he called “originalism” in his official judgments, insisting that the Constitution must be interpreted only by the words in it — and only by the original meaning those words had for the founders when they wrote them.

McConnell’s squirrelly stalling is as ridiculous as it is shameful. It’s also totally hypocritical, since the Kentucky Republican himself voted in February 1988 to confirm a Supreme Court nominee put forth by Ronald Reagan — in the last year of his presidency.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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