Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, the two longest-serving U.S. senators, give dueling speeches at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Tuesday on the Senate's responsibility to act on high-court nominations.

Reports The Washington Post:

[Hatch and Leahy] are both former chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee and have presided over multiple Supreme Court confirmation hearings, giving their voices extra heft inside the Capitol halls. Adding to the distinction was the host and the location: The Edward M. Kennedy Institute, created to honor its namesake’s five decades of Senate service, invited the lawmakers to make their address in the Kennedy Caucus Room, the august hall named in honor of the Kennedy brothers.

 

In front of Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow, Leahy explicitly invoked the senator’s legacy in calling on the Senate to act on President Obama’s nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

 

“I wish today we had more of Senator Kennedy’s commitment to the Constitution,” Leahy said before setting out the Democratic case for confirming Garland.

 

Kennedy, he said, “appreciated the role of the Senate — he knew that sometimes you had to be an instigator, sometimes a defender, sometimes a compromiser. But we are called to fulfill our constitutional duties. We are called to lead. We need to do our job.”

 

Speaking before Leahy, Hatch had kind words for his friend Kennedy, but he did not seek to argue that he would have taken one position or the other on filling the Scalia vacancy. Instead he made a high-minded appeal to constitutional principles and historical precedent.

 

“The judicial appointment process is an example of how America’s founders sought to limit government power by dividing it,” Hatch said, adding that the Constitution “does not mandate a one-size-fits-all confirmation process but leaves these judgment calls for the Senate to make.”