Can the Republicans Block the Sotomayor selection to the Supreme Court? On this post from several days ago, I outlined how it appeared to me that the flip of Sen. Arlen Spector to the Democratic party might alter the Senate Judicial Committee such that the Republicans could keep her nomination in committee. I haven’t seen anyone on TV talk about this which makes me wonder what happened or if my assessment was flawed. Better yet, the question remains as to whether the GOP would want to exercise that option in the first place. Judge Sotomayor’s legal opinions sometimes seem at odds with her public comments.
On This Date In History: On this date in 1807, President Thomas Jefferson received a subpoena to testify at the treason trial of his former Vice-President, Aaron Burr. If you recall, Burr and Jefferson both had the same number of electoral votes for the 1800 presidential election. The tie went to the House of Representatives who voted for Jefferson only after Tom’s old nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, reluctantly went to bat for the famous statesman. That made Jefferson the President and Burr the Vice-President. The original Constitution had the second place electoral vote-getter become Vice-President. But that meant that political rivals had to be the team.
That obviously created problems and the Constitution was changed. The problem became all too apparent when Burr, as the sitting Vice-President, took out his anger at Hamilton for his support of Jefferson, as well as other items of disagreement, by taking Hamilton to the dueling field. Burr killed the Revolutionary Hero and a warrant was issued for the Vice-President’s arrest for murder. Burr fled until the charges were dropped.
Well, Burr wasn’t done. His political career was over in the United States as the public turned on him for his duel. So, he secretly conspired with Britain and Spain to try and set up a new country in the Southwest of what is now the United States and part of Mexico. Of course, Burr would rule the new empire. But, he plot was foiled and he went to trial for Treason. As part of his defense, he had Jefferson, still the sitting President, called to the trial to produce documents that would exonerate him. But, Jefferson cited his right to protect the public interest as reason for not showing up at the trial and he only offered a few of the documents requested. If Jefferson was trying to send Burr to the gallows it didn’t work because Chief Justice John Marshall declared that the charges were to be dropped due to lack of evidence.
Now, I’m not sure why the Chief Justice was involved unless somehow an appeal was made to the Supreme Court or if the judicial system was different then. But, I do know that this is another of a number of instances in which President Jefferson simply ignored the Constitution to suit his needs. On these here pages, we’ve talked about the undeclared Barbary Pirate War which I suppose set the precedent for other undeclared conflicts to come , with the President exercising the role of commander in chief as reason for using the military overseas. And, we’ve reviewed Jefferson’s funding of the Lewis and Clark expedition as an example of how Jefferson the President acted perhaps differently than Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence. So often today, when we hear charges that the President is shredding the Constitution, we hear the name of Jefferson invoked….when in fact, Jefferson is hardly the one who should be upheld as the President who held the Constitution without contempt.