Sen. Ben Sasse

Sen. Ben Sasse


WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., says he’s open to confirming President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

All the president has to do is nominate someone who publicly rejects Obama’s approach to governing.

In a two-and-a-half minute video posted online this week, Sasse reiterates a frequent Republican criticism of Obama — that the president has attempted to circumvent Congress by governing through executive actions.

“I recommend that you take your potential nominee and go and stand in the Rose Garden and have that nominee explicitly repudiate your ‘I have a pen and I have a phone’ theories of executive unilateralism,” Sasse says in the video, taken in front of the Supreme Court.

Obama has used executive orders and administrative strategies in recent years to take steps on issues that he contends Capitol Hill is failing to address.

“I am going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I am also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked,” Obama said at one point in early 2014. “I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.”

In his video, Sasse took issue with the president’s approach and offered his own civics lesson on America’s three branches of government. He noted that the Constitution calls for the president to nominate justices and for members of the Senate to offer advice and consent.

“Mr. President, I advise you to please nominate someone who loves the Constitution and who will repudiate your theory of ‘I have a pen and I have a phone’ executive unilateralism,” he said. “That’s my advice on how you’d get my consent.”

Obama has said he intends to nominate a well-qualified individual for the seat, as the Constitution requires him to do. He has rejected suggestions that the seat should remain vacant until a new president is sworn in, saying the Senate has plenty of time to consider the nomination this year and that senators need to do their jobs.

The Sasse video takes a different tack from leading Senate Republicans, who have framed their opposition to confirming an Obama nominee to replace Scalia as a matter of timing.

Essentially, they say that it’s not appropriate to confirm a nominee to the high court during a presidential election year.

That was the focus of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a joint op-ed piece in Thursday’s Washington Post.

“Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” they wrote.

“It is today the American people, rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election, who should be afforded the opportunity to replace Justice Scalia.”

Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has offered a somewhat muddled message about how he intends to handle a nomination.

Grassley declined a World-Herald interview request this week through a spokeswoman. During a conference call with Iowa radio reporters on Tuesday, he had left the door open for hearings on an Obama nomination.

“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions” on whether to hold a hearing, Grassley told reporters. “In other words, take it a step at a time.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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