In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Republican and Democratic leaders are facing fresh scrutiny for stances they took regarding Supreme Court nominations in 2016 and 2020.
Ginsburg's death immediately recalled how Republicans resisted a vote on former President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland while Democrats told the other side it was their job to confirm another justice. On Friday, Obama argued that the Senate should wait, citing the need for consistency.
"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," he said. Former Vice President Joe Biden similarly said the Senate should wait, despite previously saying that blocking Garland could result in a "constitutional crisis."
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., caught special criticism since he vehemently opposed Garland's nomination and even told Americans to use his own words against him. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying he would be erecting a "monument to hypocrisy" if he pursued a vote on Trump's nominee.
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Each of them, however, appeared to argue that the cirumstances for 2020 were different, justifying a different opinion. "Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president's Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year," McConnell said Friday.
When McConnell opposed Garland in 2016, he also cited the "Biden rule," an apparent reference to then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., arguing that the Senate should postpone confirming a nominee if one was offered by former President George H.W. Bush.
Clinton, who browbeat Republicans in May 2016 to consider Garland, noting that he "Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a Supreme Court nominee, and on average confirmation or rejection has taken just two months." She also argued in February of that year that "[t]he Senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political purposes."
But on Friday, she told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that Democrats should oppose Trump's would-be nominee, citing McConnell's "hypocrisy." She also said that voting McConnell out was the "only way" to remedy his "den[ying]" Obama's "right" to appoint a justice.
McConnell and Graham have both argued that 2020 is different because the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party.
In a lengthy thread Saturday, writer Drew Holden called attention to multiple Democrats who offered apparently contradictory statements about Trump's and Obama's nominees.
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Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who previously told Republicans to do their "job" on Garland, said Democrats would do everything they could to prevent Republicans from "steal[ing] another seat."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., attempted to use McConnell's words against him while his colleague, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., warned that if Republicans "go forward and reverse the precedent they set in 2016, the Senate will never, ever be the same." Both of them supported Garland's nomination in 2016.
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Mother Jones also highlighted a number of Republicans, like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who opposed Garland's nomination. On Friday, Cruz backed Trump's right to nominate, similarly pointing followers to the argument used by McConnell and Graham.