Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight

Partisan battle lines are being drawn over President TrumpDonald TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE's plan to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg Women of Leadership Award given to Queen Elizabeth What's that you smell in the Supreme Court? The Memo: Trump's justices look set to restrict abortion 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 — McConnell searches for debt deal votes GOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin 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 GarlandBiden Supreme Court study panel unanimously approves final report Lawmakers call for investigation into proposed AT&T WarnerMedia, Discovery merger Family asks for better treatment for Maxwell as trial stretches on 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 ClintonWhat we can learn from Bob Dole Hillary Clinton shares part of her 2016 victory speech for the first time Is the US capable of thinking strategically? 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 ClintonBiden nominates Meg Whitman as ambassador to Kenya Hillary Clinton shares part of her 2016 victory speech for the first time Ben Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering 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 KlobucharSenators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing GOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Klobuchar says 'best way' to protect abortion rights is to codify Roe v. Wade into law 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 CoonsBipartisan senators earmark billion to support democracies globally House passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems seek to preserve climate provisions 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection Hillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package 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 MurkowskiSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Congress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills 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) WallaceMurthy calls for people to be 'more vigilant' on omicron, but not to panic Ernst on Russian buildup on Ukraine border: 'We must prepare for the worst' Fauci to appear on Fox Business Friday for rare interview on the network 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 KavanaughConservative justices appear open to religious claim in Maine school case Budowsky: Pro-choice women can save Democrats in 2022 Trump considered withdrawing Kavanaugh nomination over beer comments, being 'too apologetic': Meadows book 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 BluntGOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal Manchin quietly discusses Senate rules changes with Republicans House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike 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 BarrassoGOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant 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 CruzInstagram chief gets bipartisan grilling over harm to teens McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China 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.