When President Barack Obama and the Democrats tried to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat with Merrick Garland upon Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, he had over eight months left in his presidency. But Republican senators disallowed it on the basis that a Supreme Court justice should never be selected during the last year of a president’s term. This is what some of the senators said:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: "I don't think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president's term. I would say that if it was a Republican president."
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner: "I think we're too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision."
Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa: "We will see what the people say this fall, and our next president, regardless of party, will be making that nomination."
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis: "Vice President Biden's remarks may have been voiced in 1992, but they are entirely applicable to 2016. The campaign is already under way. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president."
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas: "I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice, and the best way to ensure that happens is to have the Senate consider a nomination made by the next president."
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: "It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don't do this in an election year."
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota: "Since the next presidential election is already underway, the next president should make this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."
Georgia Sen. David Purdue said: “The very balance of our nation's highest court is in serious jeopardy. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to encourage the president and Senate leadership not to start this process until we hear from the American people."
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said: "Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate — elected by the people only a few months from now — should make that important decision. I can't think of a fairer or more democratic process."
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said: "I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations."
And Lindsay Graham said this in 2018: "If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term, and the primary process has started, we'll wait to the next election."
Fast forward to September 2020. There is now an identical situation in Washington D.C., except it is Republicans proposing to replace a Supreme Court justice because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Where are all these lofty statements now? These Republican senators are hypocrites, supporting a Trump nominated Supreme Court justice immediately, instead of following the principles they outlined above.
They will undoubtedly be successful in their chicanery. But for those of us who believe in integrity, honesty, fair procedures and the truth, the only answer is to vote Joe Biden in as president. Our only hope for democracy is the Biden-Harris ticket. M.A.P.A. (Make America Principled Again.) Otherwise, we will be living in a dictatorship.
James P. O’Brien is a resident of Yachats.