March 22, 2016

Time for Senate to fulfill its duties | Charleston Gazette-Mail

The Constitution states “[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court.”

Last week the President fulfilled his Constitutional obligation and nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. The Constitutional obligation now lies with the Senate. I know we are able to debate, advise and consent on nominations, because we just did it.

On Sept. 15, 2015, President Obama nominated Dr. Robert Califf to be the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Following the nomination, the United States Senate, as is our constitutional duty, held a confirmation hearing.

On Jan. 12, 2016, the Health, Labor, Education and Pension Committee unanimously approved Califf’s nomination to be sent to the Senate floor. During this time I researched Califf’s record, I read his research papers and I sat down and met with him.

And after my research I felt that Califf would not bring the culture change that is desperately needed at the FDA. So I spent the next several weeks urging my colleagues to oppose his nomination.

Unfortunately, on February 24, the Senate confirmed Califf’s nomination by a vote of 89-4. In the end, only senators Markey, Blumenthal and Ayotte joined me in my opposition to Califf’s confirmation.

While the fight ended in defeat, it was a fight that a brought national spotlight to the opioid epidemic that is destroying our communities and families. I was disappointed in the outcome, but that is how our government works. We did our job, and now it is time to do our job again.

I believe the Senate should once again follow its constitutional obligation and advise and consent on the President’s nomination.

We have a responsibility to the American people to fulfill our duties. I am not saying we should approve the nomination. I am saying we should evaluate him based on his legal qualifications and judicial philosophy.

This gridlock is a perfect example of why Americans are frustrated with their government. The partisan politics in Washington prevent their government from getting things done. Many have argued that Garland will be bad for coal or bad for the Second Amendment.

Let’s do our jobs and find out. Let’s hold hearings, ask tough questions and see if Merrick Garland can answer them, then let’s cast the right vote. Anyone who knows my record will tell you that I have no problem standing up to the president or taking tough votes, but I do have a problem setting aside our Constitutional duties and refusing to do the job that we took an oath do.

I have encouraged my colleagues to look at this nomination with an open mind. To meet with him, research his qualifications, debate him in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.

I also ask all West Virginians to visit my website,, to review his qualifications for themselves and to send me their thoughts, questions and concerns to supremecourtnominee@, because I value what they have to say.

It is why at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the W. Kent Carper Justice & Public Safety Complex in Charleston, I will have a town hall meeting with West Virginians so I can hear directly from them. I want to have a discussion about this nominee’s record, his temperament, his qualifications and whether he is in the mainstream of the American judicial system.

If the Senate will not hold hearings, I will. Along with you, I will research his record, present the information, hold town halls and ask him your questions when I meet with him. It is my responsibility and one I do not take lightly.

I look forward to meeting with Merrick Garland, examining his record, determining whether his judicial philosophy is in the mainstream and deciding whether he deserves to hold the position of Associate Justice on the highest court in the land.

This can only happen if the vetting process is allowed to proceed. Which I am hopeful it will. Let us show the American people that we can put politics aside and meet the challenges our country faces.

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By:  Senator Joe Manchin