Clarence Thomas Criticizes Broken Confirmation Process for Supreme Court

Justice Clarence Thomas said Wednesday that the Supreme Court confirmation process is an example of how the nation's capital is "broken in some ways."

Thomas reflected on his 25 years as a justice while speaking at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank where his wife once worked.

The 68-year-old Thomas went through a very contentious confirmation in 1991, when he faced allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill when they were colleagues in the federal government.

At the time, Thomas, who would become the second African-American to serve on the court, called televised Senate hearings about Hill's claim a "high-tech lynching."

Looking back, he said Wednesday that "I think we have decided that rather than confront disagreements, we'll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don't think that's going to work in a republic, in a civil society."

He did not mention the stalled Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. President Barack Obama nominated Garland in March to take the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, declined to even hold hearings as they insisted the voters choosing the next president would have the final say on the vacancy.

But as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appears to be on the cusp of a potentially commanding victory over Donald Trump with less than two weeks until Election Day, some Republican lawmakers are raising the possibility that the GOP would decline to fill the vacancy.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Arizona Sen. John McCain have suggested that the GOP will simply block any Democratic nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia should the former secretary of state win.

Thomas defended his willingness to question Supreme Court rulings more often than anyone else on the court. He said justices often are selective about what they want to preserve.

"When people get what they want, then they start yelling stare decisis," he said, using the Latin term for respecting precedents.

He delivered one barbed quip about Obama's health care law, which Thomas voted to strike down in 2012. He said the title of the law, the Affordable Care Act, "seems like kind of a misnomer considering all the things that are going on." The administration this week announced rate increases for health insurance plans under the law.

Thomas fondly recalled Scalia as someone he could trust, even when they disagreed. Their disagreements often could be about cultural issues.

Scalia, a hunter from the North, teased the Georgia-born Thomas about his dislike of hunting. "I told him no good comes from being in the woods," Thomas said.

Then there was opera, a passion of Scalia's. Using Scalia's nickname, Thomas related that he would tell his friend: "Nino, I like opera. I just don't want to be around the people who like opera."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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