CBS’s John Dickerson challenged Ted Cruz in tonight’s debate over justices being approved to the Supreme Court during election years, suggesting confirming a successor to Scalia would be keeping within tradition. Cruz quickly corrected Dickerson, noting LBJ’s Abe Fortas was voted down in an election year, and Anthony Kennedy was not an election-year appointment.
Here’s the exchange:
DICKERSON: So Senator Cruz, the Constitution says the president shall appoint with advice and concept from the Senate, just to clear that up. So he has the constitutional power. But you don’t think he should. Where do you set that date if you’re president? Does does it begin in election year, in December, November, September? And once you set the date, when you’re president, will you abide by that date?
CRUZ: Well, we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year. And let me say—
DICKERSON: –I’m sorry to interrupt, were any appointed in the election year or—“
CRUZ: –Eighty years of not confirming. For example, L.B.J., nominated Abe Fortas. Fortas did not get confirmed. He was defeated.
DICKERSON: Kennedy was confirmed in ‘88.
CRUZ: In ‘87.
DICKERSON: That’s the question, is it appointing or confirming?
CRUZ: In this case it’s both. But if I could finish—
DICKERSON: Sorry, I want to get the facts straight for the audience. I apologize. [Booing].
CRUZ: Justice Scalia was a legal giant. He was somebody that I knew for 20 years. He was a brilliant man. He was faithful to the Constitution. He changed the arc of American legal history. And I’ll tell you, his passing tonight, our prayers are with his family, with his wife, Maureen, who he adored, his nine children, his 36 grandkids. But it underscores the stakes of this election. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion adopted by the states. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will reverse the Heller decision, one of Justice Scalia’s seminal decisions that upheld the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans and the stakes of this election, for this year, for the Senate, the Senate needs to stand strong and say we’re not gonna give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee. And then for the state of South Carolina, one of the most important judgments for the men and women of South Carolina to make, is who on this stage has the background, the principle, the character be, the judgment, and the strength of resolve to nominate and confirm principled constitutionalists to the Court? That will be what I do if I’m elected president.