OHIO, USA — Ohio Senator Rob Portman issued a statement on Saturday on the vacancy in the Supreme Court that has opened up after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday night.
Ginsburg's death and the subsequent vacancy comes less than 50 days before the presidential election on November 3. President Trump says he will be putting forth a nominee in the coming days.
Portman says in the statement that if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a vote on a nominee he intends to “fulfill my role as a U.S. Senator and judge that nominee based on his or her merits.”
Portman goes on to explain his position, which many pundits are saying seems to contrast statements he made in 2016 when then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia months before that year’s presidential election.
He says, “Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party, the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed.”
In 2016, in an opinion piece he wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer Portman referenced Joe Biden’s words from when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992 to argue that, “it would be better to allow the confirmation to take place in a less partisan atmosphere once the people have spoken by factoring in this important issue as part of our presidential vote."
In 1992 Biden stated, “it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over,” citing concerns doing otherwise would jeopardize the institution of the Supreme Court.
Here is Rob Portman’s complete statement from Saturday:
“In the more than two dozen vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court during a presidential election year in our nation’s history, the sitting president made a nomination in every single case. Leader McConnell has said that he will hold a vote on any nominee President Trump sends to the Senate, and I intend to fulfill my role as a U.S. Senator and judge that nominee based on his or her merits. The president was elected in 2016, in part, based on a commitment to nominate men and women to the judiciary who would fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not advance public policy goals by legislating from the bench. Likewise, in both 2016 and 2018, the American people have re-elected a Republican Senate majority to help President Trump fulfill that commitment.
“In 2016, when the vacancy occurred following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I said ‘the president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice … But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee.’ Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party, the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed. In the 19 occasions that a vacancy has occurred when the President and the Senate are of the same party, the Senate has confirmed the nominee and filled the seat in every instance but one. I look forward to seeing who President Trump plans to nominate and thoroughly assessing his or her qualifications for this important role.”