Liberal activist groups in Pennsylvania are pushing back against U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s vow to help his fellow Republicans block President Obama from replacing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
About 60 protesters gathered outside Toomey’s offices in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon, chanting “do your job” and highlighting some of the major cases now before an eight-member Supreme Court, such as a challenge to Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Maggie Groff, a vice president at Planned Parenthood Southeast Pennsylvania, said the docket also includes what could be the most significant case on abortion access the high court has wrestled with in decades.
“Today, we say to Sen. Toomey ‘do your job’ because the Supreme Court’s role in deciding important cases on women’s health is in fact a very big deal,” said Groff, referring to comments Toomey made to the Associated Press last month.
When asked whether he was concerned that the Supreme Court could operate without a ninth justice before the next president takes office in 2017, Toomey told the AP, “It’s not that big a deal.”
Protester Steve Harvey, a Philadelphia attorney, accused Toomey of betraying the oath he took when he was sworn into office, which states senators must “support and defend” the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution requires the president make an appointments any time there is a vacancy on the bench and requires the Senate to confirm that nominee before he or she can take a seat on the high court.
“Our economic system, our regulatory system, our protection from human rights and civil rights abuses all depend on this,” Harvey said. “It’s a matter of the utmost importance. Contrary to Sen. Toomey’s suggestion and those who would put this off, it’s a very, very big deal.”
A spokeswoman said the senator, who is running for re-election this year, was not available to comment on the protest, but pointed out a recent interview with conservative talk radio host Dom Giordano on WPHT.
Toomey told Giordano that the Constitution “clearly” gives Obama the right to nominate someone to fill the seat, “but it is equally clear that no one becomes a Supreme Court justice unless they have the consent of the Senate, and so it’s entirely up to the Senate to decide what, if anything, to do with a presidential nominee.”
And that, Toomey argued, is to wait until after America has elected its next president.