Former President Barack Obama urged Senate Republicans late Friday following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to wait to fill the late liberal justice’s seat until after inauguration day.
“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” Obama wrote in a statement.
“A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment,” he said, adding that the legitimacy of American courts and democracy depend on the equal application of this standard.
“As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard,” Obama said.
Remembering Ginsburg who died Friday, Obama praised the “warrior for gender equality” who he said battled to the end with cancer and demonstrated “unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals.”
NPR reported that days before her death, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera, saying, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Obama, perhaps referring to the dictated statement, noted that Ginsburg had left clear “instructions” about how she “wanted her legacy to be honored.”
The questions before the nation’s highest court now and in coming years “are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process,” the former president said.
Hours after news of Ginsburg’s death on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement that Trump’s nominee to the court would “receive a vote” on the Senate floor.
“Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said. “Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
The comments are a stark reversal from his position four years ago, when he refused a hearing on Garland — Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court — following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. At that time, McConnell suggested that only the incoming President selected by the American people, should decide who would fill the vacant seat.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday lauded Ginsburg as a hero and said that Ginsburg’s successor should be a choice nominated by whoever wins the presidential election in November.
“Let me be clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg,” Biden tweeted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) also tweeted McConnell’s own words from 2016 verbatim on Friday.
“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,” Schumer wrote.
The biting repetition of McConnell’s earlier claim reflected what appeared to be an effort to press McConnell to hold true to the precedent of his own standard from years before.