Government

Grassley: Supreme Court confirmation unlikely before October term

Senator says 'it would be pushing it' to have ninth justice seated by then

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley smiles as he answers a question from the media after a Tuesday town hall at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley smiles as he answers a question from the media after a Tuesday town hall at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

WEST UNION — It would be “pushing it” for the U.S. Senate to confirm a ninth justice before the Supreme Court opens its October term, Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has said he will announce his nominee to a Supreme Court vacancy Monday.

Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to confirm a justice to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is resigning at the end of the month, as quickly as possible.

How quickly will depend, in part, on the nominee.

If the nominee does not have a long record as a judge, the process could move “pretty quickly,” Grassley said.

“But if it’s someone who has a voluminous amount of decisions and speeches and everything ... you’ve got to go through every page of it.”

The Judiciary Committee will hire people to work with its 21-member staff for the next few months to help with the process.

He called it just speculation that a nominee could be confirmed before the November election and said a confirmation before the court opens its term on the first Monday in October “would be pushing it, but I wouldn’t want to say it’s impossible.”

Grassley fielded a handful of questions related to the court vacancy during an hourlong town hall meeting in the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union.

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He made it clear from the start that he wanted a two-way conversation — even with people “who violently disagree with me.”

“So feel free to express that because I can learn from people that want to tell me that they disagree with me,” he said to open the forum. “If you read my Twitter, you’ll find out that nine of 10 people disagree with me.”

Some of them were in the audience and chided Grassley for the way he handled the 2016 Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Citing the so-called “Biden Rule,” Grassley refused to hold committee hearings on President Barack Obama’s nominee.

The Biden Rule refers to the position then Sen. Joe Biden took in 1986 and again in 1992 — when Republicans controlled the White House — that the Senate shouldn’t confirm a justice in a presidential election year.

“If there is a vacancy in 2020, and I’m chairman of the (Judiciary) committee, we won’t hold a hearing on that vacancy to be consistent with what I did in 2016, which in turn was to be consistent with what Sen. Biden said,” Grassley said.

Asked to delay the confirmation hearings until Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed his investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians in 2016, Grassley pointed out that a special counsel was investigating President Bill Clinton when Stephen Breyer was nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“You can’t have one rule for Republican presidents and another one for Democratic presidents,” he said.

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Some in the audience wanted Grassley to delay the confirmation process until after the November election, but he rejected that, noting that three of the last six justices were confirmed in midterm election years.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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