Former President Bill Clinton, who nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court during his first year in office, remembered her as a “force for equality for men, as well as women,” and said he was not surprised by the celebrity Ginsburg gained later in life because she “symbolizes everything that’s best about America” and was “always on the level.”
Clinton was far less complimentary of Republicans who have indicated since her death Friday that they wish to replace the liberal-leaning Ginsburg with a Trump appointee, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
In three television interviews Sunday, Clinton accused McConnell of hypocrisy because he argued in 2016 that voters should weigh in before then-President Barack Obama tried to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year.
“He said we had to trust the American people and give the voters a voice in the last Supreme Court selection when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland,” Clinton told ABC News, referring to the judge who was blocked by McConnell after being nominated nearly eight months before the election. “Today it seems that Senator McConnell has lost his faith in the judgment of the American people and wants to hurry up and put somebody on the court.”
GOP senators and SCOTUS vote:Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins oppose vote on Ruth Bader Ginsburg replacement before election
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Clinton said McConnell had a point about giving voters a say in 2016. But he said it was “superficially hypocritical” to change his argument “when the shoe’s on the other foot, and he wants the judge.”
Hillary Clinton, who would have picked the nominee to fill the vacant seat if she had won in 2016, said McConnell set the precedent and should now follow it.
“And that new precedent, which they all defended incredibly passionately, is to wait for the next president, whoever that is, to make the nomination. But as you clearly heard, that is not what they are intending,” she said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
The former first lady said such a reversal would be “another blow to our institutions.”
“Our institutions are being basically undermined by the lust for power: power for personal gain in the case of the president, or power for institutional gain in the case of Mitch McConnell.”
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign said in a statement Sunday, “When there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, the President selects a nominee and the Senate provides advice and consent. That’s what the Constitution says and those are the only rules.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argued on ABC News’ “This Week” that Democrats were also being inconsistent because in 2016, they were crying for the nominee to be confirmed.
George Stephanopoulos had played a clip of Cruz from 2016 in which Cruz argued against Garland’s nomination, saying “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.”
‘You just played a quote from me in 2016. We can play that game all day long where you can play a quote from Chuck Schumer saying you’ve got to confirm the nominee,” Cruz said.
In contrast with his argument four years ago, Cruz, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, cited the numerous times Supreme Court justices had been confirmed in election years, though he did not mention that the only vacancy to occur closer to an election was in 1864 when Chief Justice Roger Taney died. In that instance, President Abraham Lincoln waited until after the election before naming Salmon P. Chase as his nominee.
Cruz said his position was not about partisan power, but “a question of checks and balances” and the will of the voters, as expressed in the previous election.
“In order for Supreme Court nomination to go forward, you have to have the president and the Senate – in this instance, the American people voted,” Cruz said. “And so the president was elected to do this and the Senate was elected to confirm this nomination.”
Cruz also argued it was important to fill the seat ahead of the election because if there were legal challenges similar to those between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000, a tied court “could make this presidential election drag on weeks and months and well into next year.”
“That is an intolerable situation for the country. We need a full court on Election Day, given the very high likelihood that we’re going to see litigation that goes to the court,” he said.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Garland’s nomination was not comparable because Scalia’s death occurred more than six months earlier than Ginsburg’s.
He said for the Republicans who opposed Garland in 2016 to change their position now would do a “tremendous amount of damage to the institution of the Senate as well as to the legitimacy of the court.”
“This is one of those moments where I wish we would step back and take a beat and understand what we’re doing and the consequences and how they could radiate throughout time,” Booker said.