Jeanette Strong: Use my words against me
“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.” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., March 2016
Republican leaders are becoming world-famous for their hypocrisy. I used to think they didn’t know they were being recorded. Now I realize they know they’re being recorded and they just don’t care. Hypocrisy appears to be foundational to the modern Republican Party.
This became glaringly obvious on March 16, 2016, when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant when Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13.
For some historical perspective, in U.S. history, nine Supreme Court vacancies have occurred between Jan. 1 and June 30 during a presidential election year. The presidents in office nominated replacement justices; eight of those nominees were confirmed. The only one refused even a hearing was Merrick Garland.
Also in our history, only five Supreme Court vacancies have occurred between July 1 and Election Day, counting the current vacancy. The four previous presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, declined to nominate anyone because they believed the next president should make the nomination after the election.
So what do Republican leaders in 2020 believe about this nomination process during an election year? We have their own words from 2016 to show how they felt.
In addition to the above comment, Sen. Lindsay Graham also told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2016, “We’re setting a precedent here today, at least Republicans are, that in the last year that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today… If Ted Cruz or Donald Trump get to be president, they’ve all asked us not to confirm, or take up, a selection by President Obama. So if a vacancy occurs in their last year of their first term, guess what? You will use their words against them.”
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.: “It is essential… 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. Ted Cruz, R-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. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term — I would say that if it was a Republican president.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.: “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. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.: “The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court Justice until we have a new president.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: “It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Several more Republican senators, including Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Jim Inhofe, R- Okla., expressed the same idea. (Mother Jones, Sept. 18, 2020)
In 2018, Graham reaffirmed this principle: “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.”
On Sept. 18, less than two months before the 2020 election, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Trump and the Republicans then proved their total lack of integrity; a few hours after her death, they were already discussing her replacement.
Just 37 days before the election, Trump nominated a replacement justice. By doing this, Trump put himself and his Republican enablers on the wrong side of history. They completely violated the precedents set by Lincoln and Eisenhower and themselves. They don’t care, but voters should.
Any party whose leaders are so devoid of integrity and honesty can’t be trusted to govern this country. Their own words condemn them. Remember this when you vote.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.