Heidi Heitkamp's Position On Scalia Replacement Could Be A Disaster For North Dakota

heidi heitkamp

During the nearly eight years of the Obama administration the federal courts have been savior for North Dakota’s economy. The State of North Dakota has filed suit against overzealous and overreaching federal regulations numerous times, and has put up a pretty good track record for success.

Most recently the Supreme Court put Obama’s sweeping Clean Power Plan on hold pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by dozens of states, including North Dakota.

With the the death of iconic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and President Barack Obama’s vow to nominate a replacement during his lame duck year in office, the balance of the court could be shifting in a major way. That has huge ramifications for policy impacting North Dakota – particularly the state’s biggest industries, energy and agriculture – and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp seems intent on just letting it happen.

Over the weekend my newspaper column was about how Heitkamp talks a good game about protecting our state from bad policies promulgated by her Democrat colleagues – it was a big part of her campaign in 2012 – but that ultimately she helps elect the Democrats who create that policy.

Heitkamp is an enabler for policy even she agrees is very, very bad for North Dakota. And her position on nominating Scalia’s replacement is just the latest example. From the Grand Forks Herald:

“It’s now the responsibility of the President to nominate someone to fill that position—and for the U.S. Senate to fully vet and consider that nominee—in a timely fashion,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in an emailed statement. “Other justices have been confirmed in the final year of a president’s term and it would be irresponsible of the U.S. Senate to keep the court from working at its full capacity for political reasons.”

Heitkamp is posturing, portraying the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process as something which shouldn’t be politicized. But that’s just bluster. Nominations to the Supreme Court are hugely political, and have been for generations now. Monumental policy outcomes, from social issues like gay marriage and abortion to policies like Obamacare and the Clean Power Plan, hinge on the ideological makeup in the courts with SCOTUS nominations, obviously, the most important.

Politicians like Heitkamp always do this dance around key court nominations. Those belonging to the party of the president talk about a pure process free of political obstruction or delay. Those in the opposition party justify the politics of obstruction and delay.

This is just how it works. And we should be clear that if Heitkamp helps clear the way for Obama to put a third judge on the Supreme Court, she’s clearing the way for decades worth what will likely be bad legal outcomes for the State of North Dakota.

Heitkamp campaigned on protecting North Dakota from federal overreach, but she seems intent on helping Obama put on the bench judges who will condone just that sort of overreach.

And this is hardly the first time she’s done it.