WASHINGTON — Democrats Sunday continued to decry Republican plans to press forward with confirming a new Supreme Court justice after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, arguing that the proximity to Election Day means that voters should have a say in who fills the seat — as Republicans themselves did in 2016 when Barack Obama was president.
Key Democratic senators as well as the party’s 2016 nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have demanded that the GOP-majority Senate delay considering Ginsburg’s replacement until after the presidential election is decided.
“The way this happened so close to the election, that the next president should be able to make the decision. The people pick the president, and the president picks the justice,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. “You’ve got people voting right now, including in my state.”
“They made a new precedent," Clinton said about Senate Republicans, "and that new precedent, which they all defended incredibly passionately, is to wait for the next president.”
Ginsburg passed away Friday at the age of 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. The justice, nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1993, was known for her landmark opinions on equal rights and for her advocacy for gender equality.
Her death leaves a historic vacancy on the high court less than two months before Election Day — and after voters have already begun to vote on some states.
During his Saturday rallies, Trump energized supporters with the prospect of replacing the late justice, as chants of “fill the seat” broke out in the crowd. He’s said he plans to nominate a woman to fill the seat and a handful of frontrunners have already emerged.
Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he expects President Trump’s nomination to come “this week” and declared that “there will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate this year.”
After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February of 2016, the Republican majority Senate refused to hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. At the time, Barrasso said in a statement “we should wait until next year to take up this important decision. Let the American people consider it as part of deciding who to support in November. Let the new president make this lasting decision without the political influence of the election hanging over it."
Pressed on those comments, and similar ones from Republicans at the time arguing against Obama filling Scalia’s seat after his February death, Barrasso said that the situation was different because the White House and the Senate majority are of the same party. He pointed to the 2016 position of Democrats — that the Obama’s 2016 nominee should have received a vote — to accuse Democrats of being the ones acting politically.
“If the shoe were on the other foot and the Democrats had the White House and the Senate, they would right now be trying to confirm another member of the Supreme Court,” he said.
“Twenty-nine times there have been vacancies in the year of a presidential election, and if both the White House and the Senate are of the same party, they go forward with the confirmation.”
But Clinton turned precedent toward Republicans during an exclusive interview on “Meet the Press.”
“Sen. Barrasso is doing an epic job at trying to defend the indefensible. The system has been broken for quite a while, but clearly the decision that Mitch McConnell made back in 2016 in the midst of that presidential election, but at a much earlier time when Justice Scalia unexpectedly passed away is what should be the standard,” she said.
Democrats will need to convince four Republican senators to join them if they want to block the consideration of Trump’s nominee. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins has already said she believes the seat should be filled by the winner of November’s presidential election and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Alaska Public Media the same thing on Friday, although her comments were hypothetical and came before the announcement of Ginsburg’s death.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Democratic Senators during a Saturday that “if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year. Nothing is off the table,” according to a source on the call.
Klobuchar would only say that Schumer “is talking about the fact that there are reforms that we’ve all looked at that you could consider,” but said she would not “concede” that a vote on a Trump nominee is inevitable because the fact that people are voting already “creates pressure on my colleagues.”
But Barrasso pointed to Schumer’s words to warn that the Democrats would make major structural changes to government if they win in November.
“Chuck Schumer has been very clear, the Democrats have been very clear — if they win the White House and the Senate, all bets are off. They are going to blow up the filibuster, they are going to use the nuclear option, they are going to stack the Supreme Court,” he said.