The White House responded to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effective block of President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, saying it would stand behind the nominee through the end of the lame duck presidency.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Fox News Sunday the president is calling on the Senate, responsible for confirming a presidential Supreme Court nomination, to cast either an up or down vote.
“This is an unbelievably qualified, extraordinarily decent man who comes to this nomination with more federal court experience than any nominee before him,” McDonough said. “We’ll stand by him from now until he is confirmed and he is sitting on the Supreme Court.”
McConnell, in defense of the Senate’s inaction on the Garland nomination, told Fox anchor Chris Wallace he didn’t think a president “on the way out the door” should not be making the decision of which justice will sit on the Supreme Court, likely tipping the scales of some of the most important and potentially historic constitutional arguments.
The top GOP senator has been repeating the call to let the American people decide which president should choose the next Supreme Court justice since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month.
Wallace challenged McConnell’s notion, asking if a lame duck president should not nominate a Supreme Court justice, then should a lame duck Senate not pass any laws? McConnell essentially ignored the question and cited the “Biden rule,” a reference to Vice President Biden in 1992 — then senator and chairman of the Judiciary Committee — when he said the Senate should not fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year.
Republican President George Bush Sr. was in office at the time and the political conversation over a Supreme Court nomination was hypothetical because there had not yet been a vacancy. The next Supreme Court nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was proposed to the Senate the following year by President Bill Clinton.
The White House said that in that same 1992 speech, Biden said he would back President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee if he or she were moderate or if the Senate were consulted.
“Some critics say that one excerpt of my speech is evidence that I oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year,” Biden said recently. “This is not an accurate description of my views on the subject.”
Many have argued the Senate is not bound by the Constitution in this regard, but by precedence. President Obama has claimed he is constitutionally bound.
“Historically, this has not been viewed as a question,” Obama said last month. “There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years — that’s not in the constitutional text.”
McConnell has been saying the Senate’s refusal to hold a committee hearing to discuss the viability of Garland and vote whether or not to confirm him is precedence, noting a Supreme Court vacancy hasn’t been created since 1888.
McConnell on Sunday reiterated the GOP-controlled Senate’s stance that a Justice Garland would pull the Supreme Court further left, despite the possibility of a more liberal nominee chosen by President Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration and others are calling Garland a moderate judge, though critics say he is a liberal on cases dealing with the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association called Garland the “most anti-gun nominee in recent history.”
“I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm in a lame duck session a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association,” McConnell said.