Despite all the election-year games that candidates and officeholders have been playing, the wheels of government slowly grind forward.
In that vein, it is refreshing to see Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois buck his party’s leadership over delaying hearings on President Barack Obama’s nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, a Lincolnshire, Ill., native and current chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to replace Antonin Scalia on the nation’s highest court.
Predictably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said there will be no hearings on Obama’s nomination anytime this year.
The reason? A new president will be elected in November and take office in January 2017. That president, McConnell has pronounced, should have the right to nominate the next Supreme Court justice.
Of course, this is partisan politics. Extremism, from both parties, has replaced statesmanship, leadership and negotiation for the common good -- at both the state and national capitals.
Kirk recently became the first Republican senator to meet with Garland. Kirk also encourages other Republicans in the Senate to meet with Garland. And he maintains that the Senate Judiciary Committee should also meet with the nominee.
The cynic would point out that Kirk also is playing politics. He faces a tough re-election this fall in a contest with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat running in a Democratic state.
"It's good politics for him to break ranks with the Republicans because Tammy Duckworth is going after him, and he doesn't want to differentiate himself in this way," Kate Grossman, University of Chicago Institute of Politics, told ABC Television in Chicago.
Grossman says it's not only good politics for Kirk, but it is consistent with the first-term senator's reputation as a moderate Republican, who has broken ranks with the more conservative wing of his party many times.
"There are far fewer moderate Republicans than we used to have. Maybe they'll pick up a couple other Republicans. I don't see a ground swell, everyone else breaking with the majority leader," Grossman said.
Republicans are not the only ones who have played this partisan game in recent years.
According to reports, Obama himself favored a filibuster to delay the nomination of eventual Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2005. And Republicans have dug out an old video showing Vice President Joe Biden advocating to delay such nominations in election years.
Current Republicans did not invent this stalling tactic.
But we believe the American people are tired of the games politicians play. We believe the people expect elected officials to perform their duties in Washington and in Springfield.
As Kirk has said: “I’m showing what a rational, responsible guy would do that really wants the constitutional process to go forward.”
It shouldn’t be asking too much to expect office holders to be rational and responsible.
-- JG-TC Editorial Board