The President’s and Senate’s Duties When a Supreme Court Vacancy Arises During an Election Year

A couple of dozen progressive constitutional law professors, including several very prominent ones, have written a letter that, taken seriously, means that President Trump has a constitutional duty to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice and the Senate has the duty to hold a floor vote this year. Here’s an excerpt from their argument:

Article II of the Constitution is explicit that the president “shall nominate . . . judges of the Supreme Court.” There is no exception to this provision for election years. Throughout American history, presidents have nominated individuals to fill vacancies during the last year of their terms. Likewise, the Senate’s constitutional duty to “advise and consent” – the process that has come to include hearings, committee votes, and floor votes – has no exception for election years…. We urge the President to nominate as soon as reasonably possible an individual to fill the vacancy existing on the Court and the Senate to hold hearings and vote on the nominee.

Of course, they wrote this in 2016, and almost certainly did not mean it to be taken seriously now that the shoe is on the other foot. But it might be worth asking them.

Note that the letter in question has mysteriously disappeared from the American Constitution Society’s website, but still can be found via the Wayback Machine.

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