Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) stunned the media on Sunday when he insisted there is nothing unprecedented about filling a Supreme Court seat in a presidential election year.
Democrats have framed Republican efforts to nominate and confirm a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a radical break with the norm, but this scenario has played out 29 times in American history, the Republican senator told ABC’s This Week in a contentious interview.
“Look at history”
President Donald Trump and most of his Republican allies have said that they have the right and the duty to promptly fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Ginsburg, who passed away Friday, but Democrats have characterized any such attempt before the inauguration of the next president as an act of unforgivable hypocrisy and a violation of Ginsburg’s “dying wish.”
Ginsburg’s wishes notwithstanding, it is neither unconstitutional nor without precedent for Trump to appoint a new justice, Cruz pointed out to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. In fact, American presidents have tried to fill Supreme Court vacancies all 29 times a seat opened in a presidential election year, and most of the time they have succeeded when their party held the Senate.
“If you look at history,” Cruz said, according to Fox News. “If you actually look at what the precedent is, this is what happened 29 times. Twenty-nine times there has been a vacancy in the presidential election year.”
Addressing complaints from Democrats that Republicans are breaking their own rules because Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia in 2016, Sen. Cruz said the situation is not the same seeing as the White House and the Senate are now controlled by the same party.
“When the parties are different, that has happened 10 times — Merrick Garland was one of them,” he told ABC, according to Fox. “Of those 10, the Senate has confirmed the nominees only twice.”
“An intolerable situation”
Cruz also said there is “no universe” in which Democrats would not fill the seat if they had control of the White House and the Senate. But they don’t, because the American people gave Republicans the electoral mandate to nominate and confirm appointments.
“The president was elected to do this and the Senate was elected to confirm this nomination,” Cruz told Stephanopoulos, as Fox reported.
Although the Republican Party seems to be on board, GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), both pivotal votes in the fight to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, have said a Senate vote on a court nominee should not happen until after the November election, as USA Today reports. Cruz himself was considered by the president in a recently released shortlist of potential SCOTUS nominees, but the Republican has said he is not interested in the job.
Cruz, for his part, closed his ABC interview with a warning that the failure to replace Ginsburg could set the country on a course for a constitutional crisis in the event of a contested election.
“That could make this presidential election drag on weeks and months and well into next year,” he said. “That is an intolerable situation for the country.”