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St. Pete considers resolution urging U.S. Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Council Chairwoman Amy Foster have introduced a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to perform its Constitutional duty and hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

The resolution specifically calls for the Senate to schedule a hearing on Garland’s appointment, hold a confirmation vote and work “on behalf of the people of the United States to ensure that the vacancy on the Supreme Court is filled without undue and unnecessary delay so that the Supreme Court can effectively serve its essential Constitutional function as the final arbiter of the law.”

“It’s time for the Senate to put aside partisanship and do the job they were elected to do. Judge Garland is eminently qualified to serve as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court. He deserves a hearing and an up-or-down vote,” Kriseman said in a news release announcing the proposed resolution.

Foster said, “In St. Petersburg, we’re making progress and not letting politics get in the way. It’s what our constituents expect of us. Washington should follow our lead.”

The proposal, which the council is expected to vote Thursday, comes two days after the Supreme Court sent a case back to the lower courts seeking compromise. The justices were apparently unable to resolve a 4-4 deadlock over the question of whether religious employers can be required to provide birth control coverage in employee health insurance.

The resolution refers to such a situation, saying, that “forcing the Supreme Court to function with only eight justices risks creating numerous instances in which the Supreme Court is evenly divided on the outcome of a case, preventing the Supreme Court from resolving conflicting interpretations of the Constitution and thereby undermining the Supreme Court’s role as the final arbiter of law.”

The Court lost a deciding vote when Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13 — 269 days before the Nov. 6 presidential election. Senate Republicans have refused to consider any Obama nominee, saying they want to wait until after the election. They argued that the nominee should wait for a new president.

But the St. Petersburg resolution says the “Senate has provided advice on and consented to more than a dozen Supreme Court nominees in presidential election years, including five within the last 100 years.”

Said Susan McGrath, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network:

“Members of Congress take an oath to support and defend the constitution and to well and faithfully discharge the office. For 21 of 24 instances, presidents have nominated a justice in their final year in office and the Senate has confirmed the nominee. We have already seen a court crippled in a four to four split in a labor case regarding public-sector unions ability to charge collective bargaining fees to nonmembers. We applaud Mayor Rick Kriseman and Council Chairwoman Amy Foster for introducing this resolution, encourage city council to pass it, and urge our senators to consider how their refusal to act negatively affects the people they serve.”

The St. Petersburg City Council will vote on the measure Thursday.

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