It's likely just a matter of when, not if, President Donald Trump nominates a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He held a ceremony at the White House just last week to unveil a short list of future nominees, and at the same time the rest of the country was processing the news of Ginsburg's death, an apparently oblivious Trump was onstage at a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, talking about nominating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to the bench. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously gone around the country telling donors that Ginsburg's death would be his party's "October Surprise," pledged Friday that "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." . . .When this same situation unfolded in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of that year, many Senate Republicans—most of whom are still in the chamber—drew what purported to be a principled line in the sand, insisting that it was too close to the presidential election for President Barack Obama to choose a replacement. It should be up to the voters to decide in November, they argued. Some of them even invoked the words of then-vice president Joe Biden, who as a senator several decades earlier had offered similar logic. They called it the "Biden Rule." (Biden, in 1992, was not responding to any actual vacancy, but merely a hypothetical one.) When Obama nominated Merrick Garland anyway, no one led the charge as stubbornly as McConnell . . .
But it wasn't just McConnell. This was the default position at the time. Here's what a not-comprehensive look at what 17 active Republican senators said.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.): "I think we're too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision." (source)Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): "I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice, and the best way to ensure that happens is to have the Senate consider a nomination made by the next President." (source)Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): "It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don't do this in an election year." (source)Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): "If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term, and the primary process has started, we'll wait to the next election." (source)Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "I don't think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president's term — I would say that if it was a Republican president ." (source)Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.): "Sens. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have all made statements that the Senate does not have to confirm presidential nominations in an election year. I will oppose this nomination as I firmly believe we must let the people decide the Supreme Court's future." (source)Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): "A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn't be denied a voice." (source)Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): "We will see what the people say this fall and our next president, regardless of party, will be making that nomination." (source)Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.): "Vice President Biden's remarks may have been voiced in 1992, but they are entirely applicable to 2016. The campaign is already under way. 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 confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president." (source)Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.): "The very balance of our nation's highest court is in serious jeopardy. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to encourage the president and Senate leadership not to start this process until we hear from the American people." (source)Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): "The next President must nominate successor that upholds constitution, founding principles." (source)Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.): "I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate." (source)Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.): "The next Court appointment should be made by the newly-elected president." (source)Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.): "In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president." (source)Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): "The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president." (source)Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.): "There is 80 years of precedent for not nominating and confirming a new justice of the Supreme Court in the final year of a president's term so that people can have a say in this very important decision." (source)Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): "I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations. This wouldn't be unusual. It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term . . ." (source)
Oho — they *said* they wouldn’t nominate someone if they were in this *exact* scenario! And they said it on *camera!* We got ‘em boys! Check and mate.— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) September 19, 2020
LINDSEY GRAHAM on March 10, 2016:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) September 19, 2020
“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/DYXou0KEI8
LINDSEY GRAHAM on Oct. 3, 2018:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) September 19, 2020
"If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term, and the primary process has started, we'll wait to the next election.”pic.twitter.com/WjmIiWbTeo
LINDSEY GRAHAM on Jan. 13, 2019:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) September 19, 2020
"If there is an opening, whether it's Ginsburg or anybody else, I will urge the president to nominate a qualified conservative … I'm going to be hell-bent to put a conservative to replace whoever steps down for whatever reason." pic.twitter.com/1VNcwH2p3j
Ted Cruz Four Years Ago Vs Ted Cruz Tonight pic.twitter.com/1yQXzjkVDS— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) September 19, 2020
Ted Cruz: "I believe that the president should next week nominee a successor to the court, and I think it is critical that the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day ... this nomination is why Donald Trump was elected." pic.twitter.com/9jG3NN0zO4— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 19, 2020
Marco Rubio 2016: The Court can function with eight justices... pic.twitter.com/kNgr9rO9fa— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) September 19, 2020
"The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year" - Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 2016 https://t.co/q6NCXgTahi— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) September 18, 2020