President Trump on Monday defended the Republican plan to bring his pick to replace the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg to a vote so close to an election despite the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to do the same with Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee, in 2016.
“When you have the Senate, when you have the votes, you can sort of do what you want as long as you have it,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox & Friends.”
When Obama nominated Garland after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. At the time, McConnell said the American people “should have a say” in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice, and that the vacancy should not be filled until we had a new president.
Ginsburg, the iconic liberal justice and champion for women’s rights, died Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 87. Her death immediately set off a heated battle over the vacancy it leaves on the nation’s highest court.
McConnell wasted no time, releasing a statement on Friday night mourning Ginsburg’s death but also vowing that Trump’s nominee to fill her seat will receive a vote on the Senate floor.
The Kentucky Republican notably did not specify whether that vote would occur before or after the election. Even if Democrats were to win the presidency and the Senate, Trump and the Senate could still act before January, when the new elected officials will be sworn in.
In Obama’s statement reflecting on Ginsburg’s passing, the former president cited McConnell in arguing against a vote on her replacement so close to an election.
“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” Obama wrote. “A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.”
Trump said Monday he would unveil his choice to fill Ginsburg’s seat on the bench later this week after memorial services for the late justice are complete. The president, who unveiled a list of 20 potential nominees for the Supreme Court before Ginsburg’s death, said on Saturday that he would nominate a woman as her replacement.
The president also dismissed Ginsburg’s dying wish, as dictated to her granddaughter, that she “not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
“I don’t know that she said that,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends,” adding that he would be “more inclined” to believe it was “written out” by congressional Democrats.
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