Democrats are calling on U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and other Republicans who control the U.S. Senate to do what they did in 2016, not attempt to replace a U.S. Supreme Court justice so close to a presidential election.
That became an issue on Friday when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of complications from pancreatic cancer, and President Donald Trump’s tweet on Saturday that he planned to nominate her replacement as quickly as possible, possibly as early as this week.
That’s why Democrats are reminding Gardner and other Republicans what they said four years ago when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 and then President Barack Obama tried to replace him.
At that time, GOP lawmakers, including Gardner, said a replacement shouldn’t be named until after the election. As a result, Republicans who controlled the Senate then as they do now declined to hold confirmation hearings on Obama’s nominee, saying the next president should have a say in that decision.
Scalia died nine months before that year’s election.
But instead of repeating those sentiments only 45 days before this year’s presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would consider any nominee that the president chooses to appoint.
To date, Gardner has not said whether confirmation hearings should be held until after the election. He declined to answer a direct question on the matter during Saturday’s Club 20 debates in Grand Junction.
“I hope that before the politics begin, because there will be plenty of time for that, that we have some time for this country to reflect on the legacy of a great woman who rose to our nation’s highest court, and the work that she has done for this nation,” he said. “Whether you agree or not, there is time for debate, there is time for politics, but the time for now is to pray for the family, and to make sure that we keep their family in our hearts and prayers as we mourn as a nation.”
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he intended to go ahead with naming a replacement for Ginsburg despite her dying wish for him to wait.
“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” the president wrote. “We have this obligation, without delay!”
All this has Democrats in the state and nation up in arms, calling on senators such as Gardner to take the same stance now as they did in 2016.
“In 2016, Cory Gardner was unequivocal, saying, ‘I think we’re too close to the election’ and that ‘the president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision,’ ” said Ian Silverii, executive director of the left-leaning ProgressNow Colorado. “Everything Gardner said in 2016 applies today, even more given the election is just a few short weeks away.”
Zach Hudson, spokesperson for the left-leaning political action committee American Bridge 21st Century, said Gardner is slated to hold a fundraiser Monday with U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who has been on Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court in the past.
“Raising money with a potential Trump nominee for the Supreme Court is a disturbing sign for Coloradans waiting to hear form Cory Gardner if he’ll keep his word and let them have a say before filling a lifetime appointment,” Hudson said. “For once, Cory Gardner needs to stand up to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and demand the American people have a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court justice.”
One of Gardner’s colleagues, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Saturday that while the president has the right to nominate someone now, the Senate should wait.
“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election,” she said in a statement. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd.”
On Friday, Gardner offered his condolences on Twitter to Ginsburg’s family, but didn’t address the issue of her replacement then either.
Like Gardner’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, the vast majority of Gardner’s Twitter followers who responded to that tweet called on the senator to delay voting on a replacement until after the November elections.
“The Senate must not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until after a new president is sworn in next year,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Senator Gardner must uphold the commitment he set more than four years ago and allow the president elected in November to make this decision.”
Hickenlooper declined to participate in Saturday’s Club 20 debate.