US Senators Explain Their Changed Positions On Confirming A Supreme Court Nominee In 2016 And Now

Sep 22, 2020

Republican Ohio US Senator Rob Portman has been called a hypocrite in recent days for not doing what he called for in an op-ed back in 2016 – holding off on confirmations for a US Supreme Court justice replacement in a presidential election year. Democratic Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who urged confirmation in 2016, has changed his position too. But they both say things are different now.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Portman said he was not in favor of confirming former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Portman said he wanted to let voters weigh in that November and have the confirmation take place in a less partisan atmosphere. But Portman says that doesn’t apply now. 

“In fact, I made the point that divided government, and I quote, is not the time to go through what would be a highly contentious process with a very high likelihood that the nominee would not be confirmed.," Portman said.

Portman noted in 2016, there was a Democratic president and a Republican controlled Senate so confirmation could be tough. He says voters changed that by electing a Republican president and keeping a Republican controlled Senate so this confirmation will likely go through.

Back in 2016, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wanted to take up Garland's nomination for confirmation in the Republican controlled Senate. And he was critical of his fellow senators for not doing it. But this time around, he wants the Senate to hold off. Brown says it’s too late to appoint someone to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Brown said the American people should decide the fate of the court by their choices for President and U.S. Senate this fall. 

“People have already started voting. They deserve to have a say on the court that will decide the fate of their health care, their workplace safety, their criminal justice and civil rights," Brown said.

Ohio voters can start early voting on October 6th. Election Day is November 3rd. Voters are deciding whether President Donald Trump will get a second term. And the vacancy at the Supreme Court will likely be a driving force for some voters to make their voices heard.