It is my belief that Republicans in 2016 should have taken up the nomination of Merrick Garland, held hearings and taken a vote up or down on whether to confirm him. They had a majority; they could have easily voted no on his confirmation and that would have been the end of the story at election time and beyond. But they did not. They did not so much as even acknowledge the fact President Obama had nominated anyone because it was an election year nomination and “the next president should get to decide.” That reasoning is in some ways understandable, but the Constitution does not say the president only has the power of judicial appointments for the first three of the four years they are elected. Yet, that is the precedent Mitch McConnell and his gang of 51 Republicans set in 2016 and are breaking in 2020.
Such blatant hypocrisy shown by the Republican Party is reprehensible, demoralizing and sickening that an entire group of people in political power — citizens of this country — care so little for a political system they nationalistically claim is the greatest God ever blessed upon the Earth. If that were true, Republicans would have a better sense of self-awareness.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, I was of course saddened, but also frustrated at what I knew was going to happen within the next couple days and weeks. Justice Ginsburg had, from a Republican perspective, died at the perfect time — early enough to be able to rush through a Supreme Court nominee to replace her, complete with a mock hearing to “vet” the candidate to add legitimacy to the process. But also, late enough that such rushing would be deemed necessary to fill the vacancy before the election. She died at a perfectly balanced time of not-too-late and early enough.
Of course, this is only to say “perfect time” if you are a Republican whose only waking desire is to pack the courts with as many of your fellow ideologues as possible. If there was any respect for precedent or decency or acknowledgment of some kind of self-awareness, then those Republicans would realize that rushing a Supreme Court nominee in an election year would be ill-advised and against their own precedent. Indeed, if we are to wonder “What should happen next?” after the death of Justice Ginsburg, we only need to look to 2016, where the — exact — situation occurred after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. I know people hate when we use politicians’ own words against them to point out their hypocrisy (can you hear my eyes roll?), but I will have to bite the bullet in this case and do just that.
So if I were to ask Sen. Ted Cruz for guidance in these oh so trying times, what would he say? Well, something like this, “For 80 years it has been the practice that the Senate has not confirmed any nomination made during an election year, and we shouldn’t make an exception now.” At least, that is the statement he made four years ago when Obama had the opportunity to fill a Supreme Court seat in an election year. Funny how his tune changed when the letter behind the name of the president matched his own. Sen. Tom Cotton in 2016 had made some pretty convincing points regarding whether the next president should be the one to fill a vacancy. His words: “Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the people? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make of the Supreme Court?” You’re right Tom. Why would we deny such a thing? Oh yes, we should deny it this time because the President is the same party as me, I forgot that clause in the Constitution.
I have used two senators’ words against them, though perhaps that is a little rude of me because they did not ask for that. So let’s ask a Senator who has asked we use their words against them. Sen. Lindsey Graham stated quite clearly in 2016, “I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, 'Let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination, and you could use my words against me and you'd be absolutely right." Well, I guess we should listen to Sen. Graham and use his words against him, because “the rules have changed,” meaning he and the president are of the same party and an election year nomination is A-OK.
But the person with real power in the Senate is the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In 2016, he is effectively the one person that set the precedent that he and his own party are now attempting to break. In 2016, he stated, “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice. Let's let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.” I only ask what changed in four years? Are the American people somehow less “capable of having their say?” According to McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans, that answer is yes. You as a voter in this election are incapable of deciding for yourself who should appoint the person that interprets your laws. Just remember that when you make your way to the ballot box this Nov. 3.