DES MOINES — If U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell begins the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to full a Supreme Court vacancy before the November election — as he has said he will do — Sen. Chuck Grassley. R-Iowa, said Monday he will fulfill his “responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have.”
Grassley, who as Judiciary Committee chairman in 2016, incurred the wrath of Democrats when he refused to hold hearings on the-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
He cited the so-called Biden Rule that stemmed from a speech then-Sen. Joe Biden made in 1992 saying that the Senate should not fill a high court vacancy until after the presidential election.
Grassley said earlier this year that’s still his position.
“If I were chairing the committee, based on what I told people in 2016, I could not process (the nomination),” Grassley said in July when there were concerns about the health of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week.
However, in a statement Monday, Grassley said there are significant differences between the current situation and the 2016 vacancy.
“While there was ambiguity about the American people’s will for the direction of the Supreme Court in 2016 under a divided government, there is no such ambiguity in 2020, Grassley said.
That vacancy and interest in what type of justice he would nominate were among the key issues on voters’ minds when they elected Trump four years ago, Grassley said.
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“In 2018, having witnessed President Donald Trump appoint two justices to the Court,” voters reaffirmed their support for the president by expanding the GOP majority in the Senate, which has the responsibility of evaluating Supreme Court nominees, he said.
And while his preference has been to not take up a Supreme Court nomination in an election year, Grassley has no doubts Democrats would proceed if they held the majority.
“Make no mistake: if the shoe were on the other foot, Senate Democrats wouldn’t hesitate to use their constitutional authority and anything else at their disposal to fill this seat,” he said.
Also Monday, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst issued a statement to say that once Trump announces his nominee, “I will carry out my duty — as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to evaluate the nominee for our nation’s highest court.”
Trump is expected to announce his nominee later this week.
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