Editorial: The harm of short-handed Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court Building

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Don’t believe anybody who says the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court has done no harm.

Harm is being done every day to millions of undocumented immigrants who live in continued fear of immediate deportation because the short-handed court has been unable to deliver a definitive ruling on a key Obama executive order. In June, the court voted 4-4 — a tie that resolved nothing — on the constitutionality of the executive order, which would spare undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the United States. On Monday, the court declined to reconsider the case, likely because the justices figured it again would be a waste of time, resulting in the same tied vote.

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Harm also may be done, ironically, to the agenda of the Republican Party, which should have jumped at a good deal when they could. Short-sighted Senate Republicans have refused for seven months to consider the credentials of Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s safely moderate nominee; now Hillary Clinton is hinting that if she is elected president she will nominate somebody who is younger and more liberal.

“If I have the opportunity to make any Supreme Court appointments, I’m going to look broadly and widely for people who represent the diversity of our country,” Clinton said in a radio interview last week, “who bring some common-sense, real-world experience.”

Strongly left-wing supporters of Clinton have complained that Garland’s appointment would not add to the court’s racial diversity, and that he’s not progressive enough.

Until the court delivers a definitive ruling on Obama’s executive order protecting immigrants from deportation, they remain in an inhumane legal limbo, unable to build stable, future-focused lives. However the court eventually rules — and it’s just a matter of time — it will at minimum create a road map for what policies and strategies the president and Congress should pursue next.

The court on Monday declined to hear more than 1,000 petitions seeking reviews of cases. The court never gives a reason for turning down a case, but you can bet the prospect of a 4-4 deadlocking again and again, especially on the most contentious and important cases, was frequently a consideration.

Our glorious Supreme Court hobbles along.

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