Sept. 21 (UPI) — Former President Bill Clinton said Sunday it was “superficially hypocritical” for President Donald Trump and Republicans to push to select a new Supreme Court Justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before November’s elections.
Clinton, who appointed Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, condemned Trump for urging Republicans not to delay filling Ginsburg’s seat following her death on Friday with little more than a month to go until the 2020 presidential election.
He also questioned Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP senators for changing their stance after denying former President Barack Obama’s nominee a hearing after Justice Antonin Scalia died, citing the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
“Well, of course, it’s superficially hypocritical, isn’t it? I mean, Mitch McConnell wouldn’t give President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing 10 months before the presidential election. And that meant we went a long time with eight judges on the court,” Clinton said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
Clinton also accused Trump and Republicans of acting solely to extend their own political power, citing the act of holding off on the selection of a new Supreme Court as an American tradition dating back to Abraham Lincoln who said the American people should be given the chance to have a say in who nominates the justice.
“Now, that’s what Senator McConnell said they deserved 10 months before the presidential election of 2016. So it didn’t take long to change their tune,” Clinton said on CBS News’ Face the Nation. “But that is their tune. They’re for whatever maximizes their power and I think that in this case, we should ask Senator [Lindsey] Graham and Senator [Chuck] Grassley, who said they wouldn’t vote no matter what party the president was.”
A new justice would need a simple majority vote in the Senate for the confirmation process to begin, and Republicans have 53 votes in the Senate to Democrats’ 47, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking ties.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, however, on Sunday joined Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in declaring that the Senate should not vote on a nominee before the election.
“I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply,” she said.
Additionally, a win by former Astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona’s Senate race could see him sworn into the chamber by Nov. 30, potentially narrowing the Republican majority.
Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, told State of the Union that Trump has an “obligation” to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“We have 44 days between now and Election Day, so it’s certainly within that timetable that it can be achieved,” Short said.
Clinton countered that if Republicans are successful in their effort to quickly replace Ginsburg, the act will increase sentiments of cynicism surrounding American politics.
“To be fair, there is a case to be made for the argument McConnell made that in the middle of a presidential season, you should give voters a say, that’s what he said when it was 10 months away,” he said. “But when the shoe is on the other foot and he wants a judge, we’re fewer than 50 days away and that argument doesn’t cut any mustard. So … it’s going to further spread cynicism in our system and, you know, he said he wouldn’t do it.”
Clinton said Democrats “probably” missed an opportunity to seize on the importance of the potential vacancy in the lead up to the election, adding that there will be “consequences” if Republicans are successful.
Speaking about his process of nominating Ginsburg, Clinton said that she was “disarmingly straightforward” and he was impressed with her record on gender inequality as a lawyer and her Court of Appeals decisions.
“I was very, very determined that whoever I put on the court would be on the level and would see the people first. And understand the human impact and she really did,” said Clinton. “She had this uncanny ability to be very much in the weeds, if you will, of the intellectual legal arguments and yet never lost sight of the human impact of her decisions.”