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Lankford, Inhofe say Trump's Supreme Court nominee should be voted on before Election Day, despite statements in 2016

Lankford, Inhofe say Trump's Supreme Court nominee should be voted on before Election Day, despite statements in 2016


Lankford (left) and Inhofe.

In April 2016, U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe had this to say about confirming a Supreme Court nomination seven months before a presidential election:

“We should continue the long-standing, election-year precedent and let Americans have a voice on the future direction of the Court,” they said in a joint statement.

On Monday, both said confirming a Supreme Court nominee seven weeks before an election is fine because this time there is a Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate.

“The precedent here is clear,” Inhofe said in a written statement. “In the case of a united government, with voters having elected a Senate and White House of the same party, it is our constitutional obligation to consider a nomination of a Supreme Court justice. I look forward to a thorough and swift consideration of President Trump’s nominee.”

“I look forward to considering and voting on President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy before the end of the year,” Lankford said, also in a written statement.

“If the President puts forward a nomination, the Senate has the authority to provide advice and consent, and I take this role very seriously. Confirming a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year when the White House and Senate majority are of the same party is consistent with precedent.”

Historians tend to discount claims of a precedent one way or the other because the circumstance has arisen so rarely.

Only once since at least the 19th century has an election-year nomination failed to proceed because the president and Senate were controlled by different parties — in 2016, when Democratic President Barack Obama tried to fill the vacancy created by the February death of conservative favorite Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to give Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing.

In January 1988, the last year of President Ronald Reagan’s second term, a Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed his nominee Anthony Kennedy, but only after Reagan’s first two nominees were rejected.

Sixteen Supreme Court vacancies have occurred less than one year before a presidential election. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death 46 days before Nov. 3 is the second-closest to Election Day.

Chief Justice Roger Taney died 26 days before the 1864 election and was not replaced until after it. Republicans retained the presidency and their majority in that election.

Lankford’s office, when asked why his current position does not contradict his 2016 statement, pointed to a 2016 news release from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky claiming historic precedent.

Inhofe’s spokeswoman, Leacy Burke, said voters spoke in 2018 by increasing the Republicans’ Senate majority by two seats and suggested that that occurred largely because of the possibility of a Supreme Court opening.

Photos: Hundreds gather at Supreme Court to mourn Ginsburg's death

Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

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