During the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night, California Sen. Kamala Harris made a historical claim:
"In 1864," she said. "Abraham Lincoln was up for reelection. And it was 27 days before the election. And a seat became open on the United States Supreme Court. Abraham Lincoln’s party was in charge not only of the White House but the Senate. But Honest Abe said, 'It’s not the right thing to do. The American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States.'"
Did President Abraham Lincoln choose not to nominate a Supreme Court justice during the 1864 election because “the American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States?”
There is no evidence that Lincoln ever said this or that his reasons for delaying a Supreme Court nomination had anything to do with the election at hand.
WHAT WE FOUND:
Senate records show that there was a Supreme Court vacancy during the 1864 election.
Chief Justice Roger Taney died in October, just weeks before the vote.
And Lincoln didn’t nominate a replacement until December, after the election.
But - he never said anything about letting the American people decide through the election.
Actually, in 1864, Congress was in a recess when Taney died and during the election.
So even if Lincoln had nominated a replacement, they wouldn’t have been able to be confirmed until December when the Senate was back.
We don’t know why exactly Lincoln decided to wait on nominating a justice - and the claim that he did it to let voters decide needs evidence.
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