Exactly four years ago today, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep at a Texas ranch.
About an hour after Scalia’s death was confirmed, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told startled reporters that the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice” and “therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Five days later, on Feb. 18, 2016, Colorado’s Republican Senator, Cory Gardner, agreed with McConnell that the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice should be delayed until after the 2016 presidential election, which was later won by Trump.
Gardner told fellow conservative Dan Caplis, who was on KNUS radio at the time:
GARDNER: “Again, I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.”
“We are deep in the heart of a political campaign, a divisive election, a divisive president, who has done nothing but overreached Congress time and time again,” he added. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s well-known health problems appear to be at bay for now, but the question arises of what Gardner would do this time around if Ginsburg’s or another seat became vacant.
Gardner’s office did not return a call seeking comment, but in interviews at the time, he pointed to Democrats who’d made similar arguments about delaying confirmation of a Justice.
If Gardner follows the same logic of his arguments in 2016, he’d again call for delay.
Back in 2016, Gardner went on to join McConnell and other Republicans in denying Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia, even the opportunity for a hearing before the Senate.
In fact, Gardner refused to meet Garland at all.
On March 16, 2016, even before Obama finished introducing Garland to the country, Gardner issued a statement that “our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American people deserve a role in the process as the next Supreme Court justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come.” In 2016, Gardner’s refusal to meet with Garland earned Gardner a personal rebuke from Obama.
“Sen. Gardner has not been doing his job as a senator,” Obama told The Gazette in a short interview after the Air Force Academy graduation. “He is perfectly free after having met with Judge Garland to conclude that ‘this is not somebody that I am going to vote for.'”
“If we start getting to the point where the Senate operates in such a partisan manner that even someone like Merrick Garland can’t get the courtesy of a hearing and a vote, then that’s going to start breaking down the system to the point where we can’t get any judges confirmed,” he said. “Our system of justice is going to break down, and that’s going to have consequences for all of us.”
After Obama left office, Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were confirmed for Supreme Court positions.