Yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz urged his colleagues to block filling the current Supreme Court vacancy indefinitely, remarking that “[t]here is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices.” This statement and the Senate’s continued refusal to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia, is dangerous and contrary to history.

The U.S. Constitution empowers the President to appoint justices to the Supreme Court “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate” and nothing in the text or history of that constitutional provision supports Senator Cruz’s extraordinary position. In fact, since 1875, every nominee to the Supreme Court has received either a hearing or a vote, and the Senate has never taken more than 125 days to act on a Supreme Court nomination.

“Suggesting that the Senate refuse to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy indefinitely is outrageous and a direct threat to our democracy,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “Our decades of experience in the Supreme Court confirm the importance of a full complement of nine justices. The rule of law will be harmed if the Court, because it is short-staffed, is unable to resolve the most crucial legal questions affecting the country in a clear, conclusive, and timely manner.”

“Senator Cruz’s position is not only an assault on the function of the Supreme Court, but is part of a larger set of recent attacks on our democratic institutions, including the integrity of our electoral process, and should be roundly condemned.”

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

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