Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) shifted blame for his conflicting views on swiftly confirming Supreme Court nominees under former President Barack Obama onto Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“In a few weeks, the Supreme Court will start its new term with eight justices; we need nine. Major legal questions are hanging in limbo because the court is deadlocked on 4-4 votes,” Durbin said in September 2016 following the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
But after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his impending retirement this year, Durbin and his Democratic Senate colleagues urged McConnell to delay the confirmation process for President Donald Trump’s nominee until after Democrats have the chance to win back the Senate during the November midterm elections.
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When NBC host Chuck Todd played the clip for Durbin, he noted, “There’s been some talk among some of your colleagues for Democrats to push for a delay until after the election. Obviously you didn’t like that in 2016. Where are you on this?”
Durbin replied, “Well, I asked Sen. McConnell when Kennedy made his announcement whether he was going to be consistent. He said during the course of the vacancy at the end of the Obama presidency, ‘Let’s wait and let the people decide in an election.'”
McConnell referred to the 2016 presidential election between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. McConnell has since clarified he meant presidential elections, not midterm elections.
“Well, I asked Sen. McConnell, ‘Are you going to use the same standard this go-around?’ And obviously he is not. The net result of that, of course, is that we are going to move forward quickly to fill the vacancy,” Durbin said. “And I think it’s pretty clear Sen. McConnell was seizing the moment, stopping Obama from filling the vacancy with an extraordinarily qualified man.”
But Todd pressed Durbin further, asking, “But where are you on this now? Do you want it delayed? I understand you want to point out hypocrisy on McConnell’s side. But there’s hypocrisy on your side on this, too, right? Do you think if it was wrong to delay in 2016, is it wrong to delay now?”
Durbin did not like that line of questioning.
“Well, come on, Chuck. Get real,” Durbin said. “Sen. McConnell invented this new rule and wouldn’t even consider a meeting with Merrick Garland,” he said, referring to Obama’s nominee.
Kennedy’s retirement announcement threw liberals into panic mode as they claimed he betrayed them by allowing Trump to nominate his successor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democrats like Durbin are urging their Senate colleagues to unite in resisting McConnell’s attempts to confirm Trump’s nominee before the November election. Trump will reveal his nominee Monday night.
Durbin told Todd that delaying Trump’s nominee as a Democratic bloc is even more important than the re-election hopes of vulnerable red state senators, who would like to retain their seats by supporting the nominee.
“It is a dilemma in one respect but not in another,” Durbin said of the red state senators’ choices. “It’s about more than the next election. It’s about what … the United States of America is going to chart as its course in the future on this Supreme Court. I think each and every one of them take[s] that seriously, that personally. It goes beyond the next election.”
Trump reportedly interviewed six candidates from his shortlist: Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett, Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen and Thomas Hardiman. All of them currently serve on U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. Trump reportedly narrowed down the candidates to four late last week: Kavanaugh, Kethledge, Coney Barrett and Hardiman.
“Republicans are holding four lottery tickets, and all of them are winners,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The four people named … are all winners, and every Republican should embrace these picks.”
Graham noted that Trump “could nominate George Washington or John Marshall, and they couldn’t get through” the confirmation process with Democratic votes.
“I’ve never seen it this dysfunctional. There’s nobody that President Trump could nominate from a conservative bent that will get many Democratic votes,” Graham lamented. “But this is a nightmare for red state Democrats to oppose a highly qualified nominee, and all four of these people are highly qualified, been on the court, know what they are doing, mainstream judges.”
“So, red state Democrats are going to have a very hard decision, and I hope every Republican will rally behind these picks because they are all outstanding,” Graham added.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told Todd he believes the Senate “can confirm any of the four names being mentioned.”
“I think the president has to think about who is the easiest to get confirmed here. And I expect we’ll do that on sort of a normal timetable of a couple of months,” Blunt said.
But Democrats like Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) warned that any Trump nominee “will be the swing vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and, equally important, to eviscerate the protections for millions of Americans who suffer from pre-existing conditions and other health care rights along with workers rights, gay rights, voting rights.”
“The American people will understand what’s at stake here,” Blumenthal said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week”; he claimed that Trump’s nominee, if confirmed, “will probably be the swing vote in deciding whether [Trump] has to comply with a subpoena” as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe.
“I’m very confident with this president’s enthusiasm and with McConnell’s enthusiasm that they can get anybody confirmed.”
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But Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society’s executive vice president — currently on leave from the group to work with Trump’s Supreme Court nomination team — said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that Blumenthal’s claim “is a red herring.”
“There are always issues [that the] executive branch and president deal with on a regular basis that are extraordinarily important and controversial, and we don’t hold up Supreme Court nominations or confirmations for those,” Leo said.
When host George Stephanopoulos asked Leo if he was “confident” Trump’s nominee will be confirmed before the midterm elections, Leo replied, “I’m very confident with this president’s enthusiasm and with leader McConnell’s enthusiasm that they can get anybody confirmed.”