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Law & the Courts

Richard Blumenthal on September 27, 2016: Senate Has ‘Constitutional Obligation’ to Fill SCOTUS Vacancy

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., February 4, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Here’s what Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the judiciary committee, said about holding a hearing and a confirmation vote on a Supreme Court nominee last night, September, 26, 2020

I will oppose the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as I would any nominee proposed as part of this illegitimate sham process, barely one month before an election as Americans are already casting their votes. Americans deserve a voice in this hugely consequential decision. . . . 

I will refuse to treat this process as legitimate & will not meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Here’s what Blumenthal said about holding a hearing and a confirmation vote on a Supreme Court nominee on September 27, 2016:

Congress has no excuse for leaving town without meeting its Constitutional obligation: filling a Supreme Court vacancy. This dereliction of duty is fundamentally damaging to our democracy and Members of Congress should be held accountable.

In the Capitol basement, between Senate votes last Tuesday, I asked Blumenthal about his statement from late September 2016 about the Senate’s “constitutional obligation” to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. “It’s not written into the Constitution, but as a matter of constitutional norms and practice, Merrick Garland was denied fairness. But there’s no constitutional requirement for a vote,” Blumenthal told National Review.

So there’s a “constitutional obligation” but not a “constitutional requirement” to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in late September of a presidential election year, according to the Connecticut senator.

The question still stands: Why doesn’t Blumenthal think a Supreme Court nominee deserves a vote before the 2020 election?

“Well, that’s the key. To do it, within 42 days of the election denies the American people a voice and a say,” Blumenthal replied. But on September 27, 2016, Blumenthal said nothing about it being too close to the election to hold a hearing and a vote on Merrick Garland. On September 26, 2020, Blumenthal said it is “illegitimate” to hold a hearing and a vote on Amy Coney Barrett.

“This rush is breaking all the norms and rules of fairness and consistency. Republicans have engaged in rank hypocrisy,” Blumenthal told National Review. It is true that a few Senate Republicans — Lindsey Graham in particular — explicitly said they’d hold a Supreme Court vacancy open even if the Senate and the White House were held by the same party (Mitch McConnell never said that). But there is no constitutional provision that says a “constitutional obligation” does not apply if Lindsey Graham abandons his pledge on the “Biden rule.”

Blumenthal and other Senate Democrats who said the Senate had a constitutional obligation to vote on Merrick Garland are also guilty of rank hypocrisy when it comes to their treatment of Amy Coney Barrett.

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