Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, cited “historical precedent” to push back on CNN anchor Jake Tapper during a Sunday morning “State of the Union” debate about the battle over the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s open Supreme Court seat.
The discussion came a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would bring to a vote President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, who died Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Democrats and media figures have accused Republicans of hypocrisy for withholding a vote to President Barack Obama’s pick of Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Republicans, meanwhile, point out that the White House and Senate were divided in 2016 and are both controlled by the GOP today.
“You heard President Clinton say that all this flip-flopping by Republicans on the issue of nominating a Supreme Court justice during an election year will only increase public cynicism,” Tapper said before playing a clip of then-candidate Donald Trump insisting that Republicans “delay, delay, delay” the pick for Scalia’s open seat in 2016.
“So the Trump position for a Democratic president was ‘delay, delay, delay,’ but for him it’s urgent to confirm someone now,” Tapper said. “How do you push back against the impression voters are gonna have that there seems to be absolutely no principle at stake here, it’s just about raw power?”
“It’s a pretty easy historical precedent,” Short responded. “Of those 29 I laid out for you, there are 19 of those vacancies that happened when the majority party was the same party of the president. Of those 19, nine out of 10 were confirmed before election day, and another eight out of nine after election day in the lame duck period, including John Marshall.”
“Take the separate scenario in which the party in control in the Senate is a different party than the president,” he continued. “There are 10 such vacancies. Only one out of 10 was filled before election day, and you have to go back to the 1880’s to find that example under Grover Cleveland’s presidency. So actually the historical precedent is pretty clear. When you have a party in power in the Senate whose job it is to advise and consent and confirm the president’s nominee, it continually has shown historically that that is the job of the Senate to confirm the president’s nomination, and history shows it’s the president’s obligation to make a nomination.”
Short drew a contrast to when the Senate and White House are controlled by opposite parties, noting “those nominations have not moved.”
“That’s exactly what leader McConnell did in 2016,” he said.
“I take the point on the difference in power between the White House and the Senate, but a lot of Republicans weren’t talking about that in 2016,” Tapper said. “They were talking about the principle of ‘we’re so close to an election, let’s let the voters decide.’ It isn’t just President Trump changing his tune. It’s virtually every Senate Republican.” (RELATED: Jake Tapper Presses Klobuchar On 2016 SCOTUS Statement: ‘If The Constitution Was Clear Then, Is It Clear Now?’)
Tapper played a clip from Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2016 pledging to hold off on a potential 2020 Supreme Court pick before asking: “I guess the bigger question I have is is there not a risk that this obvious hypocrisy may cost Republicans in competitive races their seats being associated with it?”
“Jake, I reject the notion as hypocrisy,” Short replied. “Historical precedent is when your party’s in power, and consistently going back to George Washington, the party has continued to confirm those nominees.”