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Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight

Partisan battle lines are being drawn over President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE's plan to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Mitt Romney did not vote for Trump in 2020 election The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett MORE less than two months ahead of Election Day with a focus on the precedent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid 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 GarlandDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE to fill the vacancy on the court after the late Justice Antonin Scalia died. 

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“Well of course it's superficially hypocritical, isn't it,” former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Late-night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare 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 ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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.”

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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 KlobucharDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing 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 CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw 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 CollinsDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave 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 MurkowskiDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Senate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court 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) WallaceBiden's debate strategy is to let Trump be Trump Biden: Muting mics at debate 'a good idea,' we need 'more limitations' Ex-GOP senator on debate commission blasts Trump's bias accusations, warns of 'incalculable damage' 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.

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“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 KavanaughSusan Collins and the American legacy The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court's Pennsylvania mail ballot ruling tees up test for Barrett 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 BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration 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.” 

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“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 BarrassoHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress 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 CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base 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.