Which Toomey Foe Had the Best Dig About Senator’s Supreme Court Vacancy Stance?

All three Democratic candidates have attacked the incumbent senator on the GOP's refusal to grant Obama's eventual nominee a hearing.

Pat Toomey (Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons); Katie McGinty (Jeff Fusco); John Fetterman (By PopTech from Camden, Maine and Brooklyn, NY - John Fetterman - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, ME, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8688092); Joe Sestak (By US Congress - http://www.gwcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/sestak-headshot-09.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10689676)

Clockwise from left: Pat Toomey (Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons); Katie McGinty (Jeff Fusco); John Fetterman (PopTech via Creative Commons); Joe Sestak.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13th. His body may still have been warm when battle lines started forming: Democrats said President Obama should appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court, while Republicans said it should wait until the next president.

The Constitution is clear on the matter: The president should appoint a nominee, who has to be confirmed by the Senate. But Republicans have pointed to the Thurmond Rule, a relatively recent tradition that appointments should not be made in the months before a new president is elected.

In reality, nobody really cares about tradition, as you can find Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden decrying the nomination of judges in the run-up to a presidential election in slightly different situations (in Biden’s case, a hypothetical one). Both parties care about the optimal result for their politics: Democrats want a liberal nominated to the Supreme Court, so they want Obama to name him now so they don’t have to wait for an election the party could lose. Republicans want a conservative, so they want to wait until after the election and hope they win.

But Republicans, who can block any nominee from being seated, still have to go through the motions. Maybe! GOP senate leaders said earlier this week not only will they not hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, they won’t even meet with the person. (Traditionally, the nominee meets with senators before hearings.) Obama wrote on SCOTUSBlog today he will have a nominee in the coming weeks.

So what does this have to do with Pennsylvania? A lot, actually: Pat Toomey, a Republican senator, is running for re-election this fall against one of three Democrats: Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf‘s former chief of staff; Joe Sestak, a former Congressman who lost to Toomey in 2010; and John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock. (To note: Joseph Vodvarka, who owns a small business that manufactures springs, is also running.)

As NBC 10 and the Associated Press have reported, Toomey agrees with the GOP’s decision to not even consider any Obama appointee. “I think the question before us now is … should the outgoing president fundamentally change the balance of the court for the next one or two generations?” Toomey told the AP. “I don’t think that’s reasonable.” He’s getting support in a new ad run by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. (A note: The stock footage in this ad is hilarious.)

The Democratic candidates for senate have other ideas, obviously. Fetterman — who I profiled in December (and, in the interest of full disclosure, also slept over his house) — is attacking Toomey by launching a petition telling him to hold hearings on Obama’s eventual nominee. “The self-serving negligence we are seeing from the GOP is the reason why everyone hates Congress, and is simply disrespectful to the American people,” it reads. “Sen. Toomey: Do your job.”

McGinty, meanwhile, has issued a press release titled, “Senator Toomey’s Priorities: Catching His Elevator.” It’s pretty good. When an NPR reporter asked Toomey about the Supreme Court vacancy, he replied: “I think the next president should make the decision about filling the vacancy on the Supreme court. And you need to move back so that my elevator can go down. Thank you.” Hey, he said thanks.

“Senator Toomey is running away from the responsibilities of his office, and embarrassing himself along the way,” Sabrina Singh, communications director for McGinty, said in a release. “Last week Toomey made headlines when he stated that his obstruction to confirming a new justice is a political maneuver, but now that Pennsylvanians are calling on him to do his job, he’s looking for an escape route wherever he can find it — even the Capitol elevator.”

Sestak is in on this, too. His release on the issue is titled, “Pat Toomey could not be more wrong on avoiding Supreme Court hearing but embracing obstructionist partnership.” He issued a long statement on Toomey’s quote to NPR.

“Pat Toomey could not be more wrong,” he said in it. “Weighing a nominee’s qualifications is precisely what hearings are meant for, not at all the partisan political weighing of whether the nominee is from a president of a particular party. William Penn said that ‘To delay Justice is Injustice.’ It is time for Pat Toomey to fulfill his duty to the people of Pennsylvania and vow to quickly consider a new Supreme Court Justice rather than marching lockstep with partisan obstructionists in Washington, D.C.”

Geeze, Sestak broke out the “old William Penn quotes from when English had inconsistent capitalization rules” card! That’s bold, this early in the election.

A recent national poll by Pew says 56 percent of Americans want the GOP-controlled Senate to act on a nominee. So, expect to hear more from these candidates about the open seat in the Supreme Court up into the primary. Then expect to hear it even more throughout the general election season. Aren’t you pumped?

Follow @dhm on Twitter.