Pa.’s Toomey says ‘there is no reason to delay’ filling Ginsburg’s U.S. Supreme Court seat

    Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Tuesday that he’ll be a ‘yes’ vote for President Donald Trump’s pick to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, further frustrating Democrats’ plans to block swiftly moving GOP plans to fill the vacancy ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

    In a lengthy statement, the Lehigh Valley Republican pivoted from a position he held four years ago, where he opposed President Barack Obama’s election year nomination of federal Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

    “Four years ago, I noted that my decision to oppose moving forward with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Merrick Garland was related to the circumstances present at the time,” Toomey said.

    Echoing a position held by other Republicans, Toomey argued that waiting until after the election was appropriate because the White House was held by Democrats while the Senate was in Republican hands.

    “The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different. While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party. The Senate’s historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances,” Toomey said.

    “This is also a view Democrats once held. We know this because every single Democratic senator pushed for Judge Garland’s confirmation and told anyone who would listen that if Democrats controlled the Senate—that is, if they were in the position that Republicans are in today—they would have confirmed him. Are we now supposed to operate by two different sets of rules that systematically advantage the Democrats?” he continued.

    With Trump set to name a replacement by week’s end, Toomey said he’ll evaluate that candidate “based on whether the nominee has the character, intellect, and experience needed to serve on our nation’s highest court.

    “These are the same objective, non-partisan criteria that I have used to evaluate judicial nominees under both President Obama and President Trump. Based on these criteria, I supported President Obama’s nomination of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and voted to confirm almost 70 percent of the judges nominated by President Obama and considered by the Senate during my time in office.” he said. “If the person President Trump nominates also meets these criteria, I will vote to confirm this nominee.”

    Toomey also voted to confirm controversial nominee, now Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Toomey said the accusations against Kavanaugh “lacked corroborating evidence,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Read the full text of Toomey’s statement:

    “Four years ago, I noted that my decision to oppose moving forward with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Merrick Garland was related to the circumstances present at the time.[1]

    “In 2016, the White House and the Senate, which share equally the constitutional authority for filling a Supreme Court vacancy, were controlled by different parties. When power is divided during a presidential election year, the Senate’s general practice has been to leave open a Supreme Court vacancy so that the voters may speak and possibly resolve the disagreement created by the division.[2] Such practice has been emphatically endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.),[3] and even the current Democratic nominee for president, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden.[4] Republicans were following this Senate practice, and the Biden-Schumer approach, when we exercised our constitutional prerogative not to fill the 2016 vacancy.

    “The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different. While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party. The Senate’s historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances.[5] This is also a view Democrats once held. We know this because every single Democratic senator pushed for Judge Garland’s confirmation and told anyone who would listen that if Democrats controlled the Senate—that is, if they were in the position that Republicans are in today—they would have confirmed him. Are we now supposed to operate by two different sets of rules that systematically advantage the Democrats?

    “The difference between these Senate practices makes perfect sense. When divided government creates tension between the two organs responsible for filling a position on the Supreme Court, it is completely justifiable to leave open a vacancy until the voters have had a chance to speak. In 2016, the voters spoke by electing a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate. In 2018, the voters expanded the Republican majority in the Senate. Since the voters resolved the tension between the White House and the Senate, there is no reason to delay filling this vacancy.

    “I will evaluate President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg based on whether the nominee has the character, intellect, and experience needed to serve on our nation’s highest court. These are the same objective, non-partisan criteria that I have used to evaluate judicial nominees under both President Obama and President Trump. Based on these criteria, I supported President Obama’s nomination of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and voted to confirm almost 70 percent of the judges nominated by President Obama and considered by the Senate during my time in office. If the person President Trump nominates also meets these criteria, I will vote to confirm this nominee.”

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press