Richard Burr puts bull’s-eye on Constitution

The Observer editorial board

Sen. Richard Burr earlier said the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled once a new president is elected. Now he says not if it’s Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Richard Burr earlier said the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled once a new president is elected. Now he says not if it’s Hillary Clinton. AP

Sen. Richard Burr’s critics are denouncing him for joking about putting a bull’s-eye on Hillary Clinton. But voters should be at least as concerned about Burr’s putting a bull’s-eye on the U.S. Constitution.

One was an inappropriate joke. The other is a very real threat to our government functioning the way the Founders intended.

During a private meeting with supporters in Mooresville on Saturday, the North Carolina Republican talked about walking into a gun shop and seeing an NRA magazine with Clinton’s picture on the cover. “I was a little bit shocked at that – it didn’t have a bull’s-eye on it,” Burr said to laughter.

Burr apologized Monday after a recording of the talk was leaked to CNN.

Overshadowed by Burr’s tasteless joke about assassinating a presidential nominee was his comment earlier in his talk about the Supreme Court. Burr joined Ted Cruz and others with an outlandish commitment: That he would fight to block every Clinton Supreme Court nominee and keep a vacancy on the court for four full years, if not eight.

“If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’ve still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” Burr said.

He hasn’t apologized for that. On the contrary, he has a track record of blocking judicial appointments – and he bragged about that to the crowd.

President Obama nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former N.C. Supreme Court justice, to the federal bench in North Carolina this year. Burr is blocking the nomination, as he has another for years. Earlier, Obama nominated an individual – Jennifer May-Parker – who Burr himself had included on a short list for Obama to consider, and still he blocked her. The seat has now been open almost 4,000 days and is considered a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“I have the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States, in the eastern district of North Carolina. Not many people know that,” Burr boasted in Mooresville. Burr said Obama broke a deal they had made on a previous appointment.

Burr said he told Obama: “‘Let me make you a promise: This seat will be vacant on the day you go out of office, I assure you of that.’ It’s not a judgment on whether someone was qualified.”

No, to Burr, Cruz and others, a person’s qualifications are irrelevant if there are political points to be won or lost. It is ironic – no, deceitful – that these politicians claim to be “constitutional conservatives” and then eviscerate the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 says the president shall appoint Supreme Court justices with the advice and consent of the Senate.

That the Senate has violated that requirement since the death of Antonin Scalia is egregious enough. That Burr and Cruz would attempt to do so for four or eight years is unconscionable.