The U.S. Senate’s 110 Degrees of Supreme Failure

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the climate which surrounds us, have the power to nurture us or do us great harm. When the air and water are clean, and the climate safe, our families and children are protected from harm. But when the air and water and climate turn sour and toxic, our health is endangered. Poisonous air which sends children gasping for breath to the emergency room, lead-tainted water which robs children of the power of their minds, an out-of-balance climate whose supercharged storms and heat waves claim lives and whole neighborhoods. These are acts of environmental harm against our bodies, our families, and our communities.

We rely on the judicial system to make sure that the laws designed to protect us from environmental harm are upheld and enforced. In an era when powerful interests who profit from pollution have an unprecedented level of access and influence, it is imperative that we have functioning courts – particularly our nation’s highest – to make sure the interests of all Americans are addressed.

But the U.S. Senate is failing to provide Americans with functioning courts. Now it has been more than 110 days since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Yet, the Senate has failed to hold a hearing on Judge Garland’s nomination, nor has it held a vote.

NRDC has previously expressed that the Senate should act and highlighted the hypocrisy some Republican Senators have displayed in obstructing the process (here and here). 

Of course, the environment isn’t the only reason we need a strong court system. We rely on the courts to address issues of racial justice, criminal justice, and bigotry and hate. We rely on the courts to level the playing field, to give the common person a chance at fairness and equality in the face of powerful interests which put our health and welfare second to profit.

That’s why NRDC this week joined with fifteen other environmental organizations in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid, calling on the United States Senate to commit to doing its job and ensuring the Supreme Court has the nine justices necessary to function as intended. With so many critical issues expected to come before the Supreme Court, including those dealing with public health and environmental safeguards, this is not the time to hobble our judiciary with extended vacancies caused by political gamesmanship.

If you stand with us in calling on the Senate for action, please take a moment to let your Senators know your views, and then share this article with friends and family.