Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight

Partisan battle lines are being drawn over President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol MORE's plan to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd among options for 'Remember the Titans' school's new name Bipartisan anger builds over police failure at Capitol Lindsey Graham praises Merrick Garland as 'sound choice' to serve as attorney general MORE less than two months ahead of Election Day with a focus on the precedent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate MORE (R-Ky.) set four years ago by blocking then-President Obama's nominee. 

Democrats argued on Sunday that McConnell's vow that the Senate would vote to confirm Trump's nominee is hypocritical. 

Republicans, meanwhile, sought to distance themselves over accusations of hypocrisy, and dismissed contradictory comments made four years ago when Obama nominated Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandBiden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Graham says he'll back Biden's CIA pick A Democratic agenda for impossibly hard times MORE to fill the vacancy on the court after the late Justice Antonin Scalia died. 


“Well of course it's superficially hypocritical, isn't it,” former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden's chief aide says president wants teams, no rivals Upton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents Arizona's GOP governor to attend Biden inauguration MORE, who nominated Ginsburg in 1993, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

“This is what they do. I think both for Sen. McConnell and President Trump, their first value is power, and they’re trying to jam the court with as many ideological judges as they can, Clinton added. 

Clinton also questioned what had changed since 2016, when McConnell said the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.” 

“I don't know what’s happened to make him stop trusting the American people. but apparently when it's to his advantage the people are not entitled to a say,” Clinton added. 

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCan Biden encompass the opposition he embodied? Disney silent on Trump status in Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom Biden has an opportunity to win over conservative Christians MORE said the GOP "made a new precedent" to wait for a new president before confirming a nominee ahead of an election. 

“They talk about, ‘Well you know we had other standards before,’” she said on NBC's "Meet the Press." “Well they made a new precedent, and that new precedent, which they all defended incredibly passionately, is to wait for the next president whoever that is to make the nomination.”


She also said the GOP effort to fill the vacancy is "another blow to our institutions." 

“Our institutions are being basically undermined by the lust for power – power for personal gain in the case of the president or power for institutional gain in the case of Mitch McConnell – at the cost of ensuring that our institutions withstand whatever the political winds might be,” said Hillary Clinton, who also served as secretary of State in the Obama administration.  

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, similarly said on CNN that “a new rule was set” by Republicans in 2016 in blocking a vote on Obama’s nominee. 

“They set this precedent, they can’t mess around and use raw political power right in the middle of an election,” she said, noting that voting has already begun in her state. 

Since Republicans hold a 53-46 majority in the upper chamber, even if all members of the Senate Democratic caucus oppose Trump’s pick, four Republicans would need to defect to block Trump’s nominee. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSecurity concerns mount ahead of Biden inauguration Trump impeachment collides with Biden's agenda Sanders to wield gavel as gatekeeper for key Biden proposals MORE (D-Del.) called on Senate Republicans to “live with the precedent they set,'' and not rush a confirmation for Ginsburg’s successor. 

“I’m going to be working this weekend, this week to reach across the aisle and see if I can persuade some friends to respect tradition, to respect the precedent they set in 2016 and to let the voters decide,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday."

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (R-Maine.), one of the most vulnerable GOP senators facing reelection in the fall, has said the Senate should not vote to confirm Ginsburg’s successor before the election. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate MORE (R-Alaska) also said, ahead of reports of Ginsburg’s death, that she would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee before the election. 

But many Republican senators have voiced support in pushing a quick vote on Trump’s nominee, and have dismissed the notion that doing so is hypocritical in light of comments they made voicing the opposite position in 2016 to block Obama's nominee. 

Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceMulvaney: Earlier Trump controversies were 'policy differences' or 'stylistic,' but 'Wednesday was existential' Clyburn: House has responsibility to impeach Trump over Georgia call Fox's Chris Wallace: Pence 'chose the Constitution' over helping Trump MORE pressed Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on his comments from 2016. 

“Why would we squelch the voice of the people? Why would we deny the voters to weigh in on the makeup of the Supreme Court?” Cotton said on the Senate floor in 2016, after Scalia's death and Obama's nomination of Garland. 

“You don’t see any hypocrisy between that position then and this position now?” Wallace asked.


“Chris, the Senate majority is performing our constitutional duty and fulfilling the mandate that the voters gave us in 2016 and especially in 2018,” he said, referring to the midterm elections after Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMurkowski says she is not considering joining Democratic caucus Murkowski becomes first GOP senator to call on Trump to resign 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence MORE’s confirmation hearings. 

Wallace pressed Cotton, asking if he would “still think it would be proper” for the Senate to confirm a Trump nominee to the court if the 2020 election resulted in a new president and Democratic majority in the upper chamber. 

“Chris, as I said, we are going to move forward without delay and there will be a vote on this nominee,” the senator responded

“But to the point Donald Trump’s gonna win reelection, and I believe Senate Republicans will win our majority back because the American people know that Donald Trump is going to put nominees up for the federal courts who will apply the law, not make the law,” he added. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack MORE (R-Mo.) similarly defended his decision supporting a vote on Trump’s nominee despite blocking Obama’s by stating that it is in the “tradition of the country” for the Senate to support nominees of presidents’ of the same ruling party. 

“Two things have to happen for a person to go on the Supreme Court. In the tradition of the country, when the Senate and president were in political agreement no matter what was the election situation, judges went on the court and other courts. When they weren’t in agreement, they didn’t,” Blunt said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” 


“And we were in a situation in 2016 where the White House was controlled by one party, the Senate by another, and the referee in that case was going to be the American people,” he continued. “In this case, both the White House and the Senate have some obligation to do what they think in the majority in the Senate is the right thing to do, and there is a Senate majority put there by voters for reasons like this.”

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development MORE (R-Wyo.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” confirming a justice weeks before the 2020 election is “completely consistent with precedent.” He argued that “if the shoe were on the other foot” and Democrats had the White House and Senate, they would make the same move.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Trump impeachment ignites GOP civil war GOP lawmaker gives up honorary college degree in wake of Electoral College vote MORE (R-Texas) also said in ABC’s “This Week,” that he believes Republicans will have the votes to confirm a Supreme Court nomination. 

Marc Short, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, said on CNN Trump “is prepared to make a nomination very soon.” 

Short also said he “rejects the notion” that a vote on Trump’s nominee is hypocritical, adding that there is “historical precedent’ for the president to nominate a replacement. 

“When you have a party in power in the Senate whose job it is to advise and consent and confirm the president's nominee, it continually has shown, historically, that that is the job of the Senate to confirm the president's nomination. And history shows, it's the president obligation make a nomination,” Short said. “When you have a party in different power in the United States Senate, those nominations have not moved forward. And that's exactly what Leader McConnell did in 2016.”

Bill Clinton argued that McConnell’s flip-flop over whether a president should nominate a justice before an election will “further spread cynicism in our system.” 

“You can't keep a democracy if there is one set of rules for one group and another set for everybody else,” Clinton said on CNN.