The U.S. Senate is on the verge of unprecedented action never before seen in the 240-year history of our country, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have chosen a dangerous, partisan path to push through the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett eight days before this year’s Nov. 3 election that will politicize the highest court in the land. The facts are clear — never before has the president nominated and the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court justice between July and Election Day in a presidential election year.
Historically, all Supreme Court vacancies that arose after July of an election year remained open until after the election. For example, in 1828, an August vacancy on the Supreme Court was left unfilled by President John Quincy Adams until after that year’s presidential election. October vacancies occurred in both 1864 and 1956, with both President Abraham Lincoln and President Dwight D. Eisenhower waiting until after they were reelected to nominate a new justice.
Those distinctions are significant because before the rushed confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice, the American people had a chance to speak. It is important to note that while the Constitution guarantees a sitting P\president the right to nominate a justice, that president does not “own” the vacant seat. The seat is not the president’s, but the American peoples’. A president serves a four-year term. The average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice is four times that long.
In 2020, the American people deserve the same opportunity granted to voters throughout our history. Their say impacted the makeup of the court in 1864 and 1956 and I believe it should again.
This degradation of Senate norms and procedures didn’t start with the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and it won’t end here. In 2013, I opposed Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to remove the filibuster on executive and judicial branch nominees. In 2017, I opposed Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to remove the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. We should be working together to make the court less partisan, not more.
The U.S. Senate is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world, and perhaps we used to be. But each time a Senate majority — regardless of party — changes the rules, we reduce the incentive to work together across party lines. Some of our most monumental laws — the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the first GI Bill of Rights — were all passed into law with strong bipartisan support.
Instead, the partisan governing of the last ten years and the rushed nomination of Judge Barrett only fans the flames of division at a time when Americans are deeply divided. Judge Barrett’s nomination and the confirmation process are far from business as usual in the United States Senate. I cannot support the nomination of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States on the eve of a Presidential election. It is simple — this nomination must wait until after the election.