Along with Americans around the country, we mourn the loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to ever serve in the nation’s top court. As Chief Justice John …
Along with Americans around the country, we mourn the loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to ever serve in the nation’s top court. As Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature.”
The 87-year-old justice’s death came just 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.
As many Americans processed the news Friday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in announcing that the U.S. Senate would vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee for the court.
It was a reversal from his 2016 statement following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he announced there would be no vote on whomever President Barack Obama nominated to replace Scalia.
“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,” McConnell said then.
That statement came soon after Scalia’s death on Feb. 13, 2016, and in the days that followed, other Republican senators — including those representing Wyoming — echoed McConnell’s sentiments.
“This is a lifetime appointment — a lifetime appointment — and the stakes could not be higher for our country,” Sen. John Barrasso said on March 3, 2016. “So it is perfectly reasonable to wait for the next president to make this critical nomination.”
Barrasso said Democrats wanted to immediately fill the vacancy, while “Republicans are more interested in making sure that the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on this important decision.”
Justice Scalia’s death occurred 269 days before the 2016 presidential election. The Democrats who wanted to “immediately” fill the vacancy prior to the election would have had 223 more days to do so compared to Republicans in 2020.
Sen. Barrasso cited Joe Biden — who is now running for president — in his 2016 statement.
Barrasso recounted the Biden Rule for Supreme Court nominations: In 1992, then-Sen. Biden said that once the presidential election is underway, “action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”
“You can’t get any clearer than that,” Barrasso said in 2016.
Barrasso continued that “we should wait until next year to take up this important decision.”
“Let the American people consider it as part of deciding who to support in November,” Barrasso said. “Let the new president make this lasting decision without the political influence of the election hanging over it.”
Sen. Mike Enzi, who is now in his final months in the Senate, also talked in 2016 about the importance of waiting until a new president took office.
“I believe the American people should decide the direction of the Supreme Court,” Enzi said on Feb. 25, 2016.
We thought it was a mistake for Senate Republicans to refuse to consider filling Scalia’s seat then, but that’s the path they chose. Now, we expect our senators to hold true to the position they took in 2016.
Of course, Republican leaders claim this is different: In 2016, there was a Republican majority in the Senate and a Democratic president, while Republicans control both branches now.
“Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” McConnell said in a Friday night statement.
But if McConnell and fellow senators truly care about the American people’s role in the decision-making process, shouldn’t they be willing to wait a mere six weeks to see what Americans have to say in 2020? Polling data suggests Biden has a lead over President Trump, but we all know how the polls turned out for candidate Trump in 2016.
In this tumultuous time in American history, we encourage Wyoming’s senators to revisit the Code of the West, adopted by the state a decade ago. It talks about the importance of keeping promises and taking pride in your work.
The code also says: “Be tough, but fair.” To be fair in this case will be tough. But we hope that our senators will treat the 2020 Supreme Court vacancy the same way they handled the one in 2016. It’s only fair.