What They Said Then


36 Republican Senators went on the record in 2016 opposing an election year vote on a new member of the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia eight months before the November federal elections.

Where are they now?

There was hope that at least a handful of them might keep their word following the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg September 18. But no. Call it hypocrisy. Call it politics. Call it what you like: less than a week after her death — and less than six weeks before the November federal elections — only two Senators are on record stating that the voters should have a voice in this momentous decision.

We’ve assembled a collection of the Senators’ 2016 comments. (For a full list, check the links from PBS.org at the bottom of this article.)  Many Senators seem to have forgotten how they felt about this four years ago. Contact these Senators: send a postcard, an email or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Use Your Power. Use Your Voice. Quote back their own words to them.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
113 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

“We are in the middle of a presidential election, and the Senate majority is giving the American people a voice to determine the direction of the Supreme Court.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
290 Russel Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
“If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
448 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“During a very partisan year and a presidential election year … both for the sake of the court and the integrity of the court and the legitimacy of the candidate, it’s better to have this occur after we’re past this presidential election.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
135 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice. Do we want a court that interprets the law, or do we want a court that acts as an unelected super legislature? This year is a tremendous opportunity for our country to have a sincere and honest debate about the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system of government.”
Senator John Thune (R-SD)
US Senate SD-511
Washington, DC 20510
“The American people deserve to have their voices heard on the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice, who could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation. Since the next presidential election is already underway, the next president should make this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)
320 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“The replacement of Justice Scalia will have far-reaching impacts on our country for a generation. The American people have already begun voting on who the next president will be and their voice should continue to be reflected in a process that will have lasting implications on our nation. The U.S. Senate should exercise its constitutional powers by not confirming a new Supreme Court justice until the American people elect a new president and have their voices heard.” 
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AZ)
124 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“In a few short months, we will have a new president and new senators who can consider the next justice with the full faith of the people. Why would we cut off the national debate on the next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the populace? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court?” 
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
328 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court. Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate – elected by the people only a few months from now – should make that important decision. I can’t think of a fairer or more democratic process.” 
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510 

“At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, Texans and the American people deserve to have a say in the selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next president to make the nomination to fill this vacancy.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
404 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“This should be a decision for the people. Let the election decide. If the Democrats want to replace this nominee, they need to win the election.” 
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
248 Russel Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
“With the U.S. Supreme Court’s balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice.” 
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
317 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Feb. 13. 2016

“Rarely does a Supreme Court vacancy occur in the final year of a presidential term … Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in.” Feb. 18, 2016

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
284 Russel Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
“I don’t think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term. I would say that if this was a Republlcian president.”
Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
354 Russel Senate Office Bldg
Washington DC 20510
“Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American People deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court Justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come.”
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
307 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
“ The American people will soon decide our next president. That person should get to choose the next Supreme Court nominee. Give the people a voice, and let them chart the course for the court and the country.” 
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
361A Russel Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

“In light of the contentious presidential election already well underway, my colleagues and I on the Judiciary Committee have already given our advice and consent on this issue: We will not have any hearings or votes on President Obama’s pick.” March 16, 2016

To view a complete list of Senators’ 2016 comments, PBS News Hour’s authored the following article, complete with chart, published Sept 19, 2020 on PBS.org.

What every Republican senator has said about filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year


With less than six weeks until the presidential election, the White House is preparing to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the nominee will get a vote.

McConnell acted differently in 2016. Justice Antonin Scalia died more than eight months before that year’s presidential election and McConnell said the Senate should not vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee because voters should be given a say by way of choosing the next president.

McConnell argues that this year’s vacancy, though closer to the election, is different because Republicans control both the Senate and the White House, whereas the government was divided in 2016. It will be up to his fellow Republicans to decide whether they agree.

Confirmation requires a majority, or 50 Senate votes with Vice President Mike Pence acting as tie-breaker. Currently, Republicans hold 53 Senate seats. Thus, if four or more Republicans oppose a vote, and all Democrats also are opposed, a nominee will be blocked.

Here’s how Senate Republicans felt in 2016, and what they’ve said publicly now. Click here for a Google doc with links to the original source for all statements and quotes we found.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: