When Justice Antonin Scalia died in winter 2016, Republicans introduced a new logic to the process of filling Supreme Court vacancies: If the opening came shortly before a presidential election, the process should be put on hold until the American people had a chance to make their voices heard.
Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 presidential election. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to compare, died Friday, just 46 days before the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3.
Her loss instantly triggered dual avalanches of grief and concern over whether President Donald Trump will get a third chance to pick a new associate justice on the nation’s highest court ― a court that could play a pivotal role in a contentious election ― despite what members of his own party said repeatedly four years earlier.
Republicans at the time defended themselves largely by appealing to voters. Here is what more than a dozen of them said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa: “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “As I have repeatedly stated, the election cycle is well underway, and the precedent of the Senate is not to confirm a nominee at this stage in the process. I strongly support giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president.”
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina: “It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive...