Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today made the following statement about the current Supreme Court vacancy after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
“In 2016, with an open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court and a window into the type of justice he’d nominate, the American people elected Donald Trump president of the United States. The vacancy was among the key issues on voters minds at the polls.
“In 2018, having witnessed President Trump appoint two justices to the Court, as well as the ugly tactics deployed by Senate Democrats during the confirmation process, the American people reaffirmed their support for the President by expanding the Republican majority in the Senate, the body tasked with evaluating the President’s nominees to the court.
“Over the years, and as recently as July, I’ve consistently said that taking up and evaluating a nominee in 2020 would be a decision for the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader. Both have confirmed their intentions to move forward, so that’s what will happen. Once the hearings are underway, it’s my responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have. The Constitution gives the Senate that authority, and the American people’s voices in the most recent election couldn’t be clearer. While there was ambiguity about the American people’s will for the direction of the Supreme Court in 2016 under a divided government, there is no such ambiguity in 2020.
“Our colleagues on the other side made clear long ago their intentions to upend norm after norm to hijack the judiciary. From Bork to Estrada to Kavanaugh; from torching the filibuster to threatening justices who rule against their wishes, Senate Democrats have a long, sordid history of politicizing the courts and the confirmation process. Even before the current vacancy, Democrats discussed plans to pack the Supreme Court and eliminate the legislative filibuster, just because they can’t get the results they want at the polls. In this case the people have spoken, putting power to appoint and confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court in one party.
“So, make no mistake: if the shoe were on the other foot, Senate Democrats wouldn’t hesitate to use their Constitutional authority and anything else at their disposal to fill this seat.”
In 2016, citing a divided government, then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and his committee colleagues exercised their constitutional authority to withhold consent on any nominee prior to the completion of the election. In a 2016 letter to Leader McConnell, the senators wrote:
“Not since 1932 has the Senate confirmed in a presidential election year a Supreme Court nominee to a vacancy arising in that year. And it is necessary to go even further back — to 1888 — in order to find an election year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under divided government, as we have now.
“Accordingly, given the particular circumstances under which this vacancy arises, we wish to inform you of our intention to exercise our constitutional authority to withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy.”
The circumstances are different in 2020, where the American people elected a Republican President and Senate in 2016 and expanded the Republican Senate majority in 2018.