Media are making false comparisons between current Republican rhetoric and past Democratic actions and comments to undermine the president's pledge to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Unlike Democrats in the past, Republicans are indicating they will refuse to even engage in the nomination process at all, an abdication of their basic constitutional responsibilities that is unprecedented.
Obama Pledged To “Fulfill My Constitutional Responsibilities” By Nominating A Successor To Scalia, And Republicans Said They Wouldn't Consider It
Washington Post: Obama “Vows To Nominate Supreme Court Replacement” Following Death of Justice Scalia. A February 13 Washington Post article reported that President Barack Obama “vowed Saturday to 'fulfill my constitutional responsibilities' to nominate a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and challenged Congress to grant his choice a fair confirmation hearing.” President Obama announced his plans after it was reported that Justice Scalia “died of natural causes at 79 on Saturday.” [The Washington Post, 2/13/16]
Senate Republicans Vowed Not To Consider An Obama Nominee To Replace Scalia. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, went beyond promising to scrutinize and possibly vote against a future nominee, and have vowed not to consider any nominee President Obama puts forward:
Senate Republicans on Monday began to close ranks behind a vow by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, to block consideration of any nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, for the remainder of President Obama's term. [The New York Times, 2/15/16]
Media Use Series Of Flawed Comparisons To Undermine Dems' View That Republicans Shouldn't Block Nomination
FALSE CLAIM: Sen. Schumer's Support For Blocking George W. Bush's SCOTUS Nominee Undermines Criticisms Of Republicans' Current Threats
CNN's Erin Burnett: Republicans' Pledge To Block Any Obama SCOTUS Nominee Is “Eerily Similar” To A 2007 Statement By Sen. Chuck Schumer. On the February 15 edition of CNN's OutFront, host Erin Burnett invoked Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's 2007 exhortation for his colleagues to “not confirm any [George W.] Bush nominee,” claiming his comments were “eerily similar” to what Republicans are saying now:
ERIN BURNETT (HOST): There's something to be said here about which foot is the shoe on. Leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said something back in 2007 before a 2008 presidential election that sounds eerily similar. Here it is.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: We cannot afford to see Justice [John Paul] Stevens replaced by another [John] Roberts, or Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg by another [Samuel] Alito. Given the track record of this president and the experience of obfuscation at hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court at least, I will recommend to my colleagues we shall not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.
BURNETT: All right. So it sounds like exactly what Republicans are saying right now. [CNN, OutFront, 2/15/16]
CBS' Nancy Cordes: “Schumer Felt Differently” In 2007. On the February 15 edition of CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes noted that while Chuck Schumer is arguing for Obama to appoint someone to fill the vacancy left by Justice Scalia, he “felt differently in the final year of President George W. Bush's term when he argued Democrats should block Bush nominees” :
NANCY CORDES: Democrats like New York's Chuck Schumer argued President Obama still has nearly a year left in his term.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: When you go right off the bat and say, 'I don't care who he nominates, I am going to oppose him,' that's not going to fly.
CORDES: But Schumer felt differently in the final year of President George W. Bush's term when he argued Democrats should block Bush nominees because, quote, “the Supreme Court was already dangerously out of balance.” [CBS, CBS Evening News, 2/15/16]
Fox's Charles Payne: Schumer's 2007 Comments Demonstrate A “Double Standard.” On the February 15 edition of Your World, guest host Charles Payne pointed to Schumer's 2007 statement to claim that there is a “double standard” at play in the current debate swirling around Scalia's vacant seat:
CHARLES PAYNE: There's no doubt the nation mourns the loss of Justice Scalia. And it is unfortunate that it happened during this particular time in politics. But, having said that, we just played a clip of Senator Schumer saying, “Hey, let's block Bush's nominee.” And this was 18 months before the end of his term. Why the double standard all of a sudden? [Fox News,Your World, 2/15/16]
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: Schumer And The Media “May Want To Forget” His 2007 Comments As He Insists On Replacing Scalia. The Wall Street Journal editorial board pointed to Schumer's 2007 comments, writing that “Mr. Schumer and the media may want to forget this as he insists on replacing Justice Antonin Scalia this year” :
Speaking of politicizing the Supreme Court (see above), Sen. Chuck Schumer always delivers. In July 2007 the New York Democrat gave a speech to a progressive legal society in which he said this about confirming a George W. Bush nominee in the last 18 months of his Presidency as recounted in Politico:
"'We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,' Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. 'The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice [John Paul] Stevens replaced by another [Chief Justice John] Roberts, or Justice [ Ruth Bader] Ginsburg by another [ Samuel] Alito.'" Mr. Schumer went on to say that he would recommend to his Senate colleagues “that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.”
Mr. Schumer and the media may want to forget this as he insists on replacing Justice Antonin Scalia this year, but there it is. [The Wall Street Journal, 2/15/16]
REALITY: Schumer Urged Senate To Gain Sufficient Information On 2007 Nominees, Not To Refuse To Consider Them Before They Were Named
Schumer Objected Not To Timing Of Nominations, But To Nominees Themselves And Lack Of Information About Them. A February 15 CBS report explained that Schumer's comments “stemmed from his feeling that the Senate had insufficient information when it confirmed” Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court:
Schumer's argument was not one of timing and the closeness of the presidential election. He just didn't think much of either of President Bush's picks. Schumer's recommendation stemmed from his feeling that the Senate had insufficient information when it confirmed his two picks, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, to the court.
“It appears we were not given the most accurate picture of the nominees we confirmed,” Schumer said. “We were presented a misleading portrait.” He accused both justices of making decisions that “flouted precedent” and, essentially, legislating from the bench.
He argued that Senate had to “engage in conjecture” to understand the nominees' way of thinking and method of reasoning because their records were thin. [CBS, 2/15/16]
FALSE CLAIM: Alito Filibustering Undermines Criticisms Of Republicans' Pledge To Block Any Obama Nominee
CNN's Matt Lewis: “There's A Lot Of Hypocrisy” -- “Barack Obama Joined A Filibuster Of Justice Samuel Alito.” On the February 15 edition of CNN Tonight, CNN contributor Matt Lewis claimed “there's a lot of hypocrisy” surrounding criticisms of Republican pledges to blockObama's nominee in part because of opposition to Bush's nominees:
MATT LEWIS: These guys are all hypocrites. Go back 10 years and you'll find Republicans saying what Democrats are saying today. You'll find Democrats saying what Republicans are saying today. So, look, I mean, I'm sure we can go back and find what Harry Reid had to say about George W. Bush's nominees. By the way, Barack Obama joined a filibuster of Justice Samuel Alito before he became president. So, look, there's a lot of hypocrisy on this. [CNN, CNN Tonight, 2/15/16]
CNN's Tara Setmayer: “Obama Joined A Filibuster Against Samuel Alito.” On the February 15 edition of CNN's Wolf, CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer brought up then-Sen. Obama's “filibuster against Samuel Alito when he was up for the Supreme Court,” likening it to Republicans vowing to block any nominee Obama puts forth to the Supreme Court now:
TARA SETMAYER: The problem here for Republicans is only if they don't message it correctly. Democrats have done this plenty of times before. Senator Barack Obama joined in a filibuster against Samuel Alito when he was up for the Supreme Court position, which he ultimately won. [CNN,Wolf, 2/15/16]
Fox's Eric Bolling: There's “A Little Bit” Of “Hypocrisy” In Obama's Pledge To Replace Scalia When He Filibustered Alito's Nomination. On the February 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox contributor Mary Katharine Ham claimed that Obama “has to live by the standard he set” when he filibustered the vote to confirm Alito. Host Eric Bolling echoed Ham's statement, saying there's a bit of “hypocrisy” in Obama's pledge to nominate a replacement for Scalia:
MARY KATHARINE HAM: Let's also talk about President Obama, and when he was a senator, he had a standard and that was for 60 votes for Justice Alito. So he maybe has to live by the standard he set. He is not going to like it. But that may be where this goes. This is how it works. There is a high threshold. This is a serious matter.
ERIC BOLLING (HOST): Let's talk about President Obama here a little bit about the hypocrisy of what he is doing. Mary Katharine Ham points out that he voted to get a 60-vote threshold for Alito. Now I guess he is suggesting -- he is still isn't going to get the vote anyway. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/15/16]
CBS' Jan Crawford: Democrats “Have Said The Exact Opposite Thing In The Past,” Including Hillary Clinton, Who Voted To Block Alito. On the February 16 edition of CBS This Morning, chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford compared Senate Republicans' pledge to block any Obama nominee before he names one to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) voting “with the Republicans to block President Bush's nomination of Justice Alito” :
JAN CRAWFORD: With the Supreme Court nominations, you have to keep in mind that with these politicians, what they're saying now, they have said the exact opposite thing in the past. ... Secretary of State Clinton may be upset that the Republicans are saying they're going to block President Obama's nominee. But when she was senator, she voted with the Democrats to block President Bush's nomination of Justice Alito. It's really what goes around, comes around. [CBS, CBS This Morning, 2/16/16]
REALITY: Obama and Clinton Opposed Alito On His Merits, Rather Than Refusing To Consider Any Nominee, As Republicans Now Pledge To Do
ABC: Obama Supported Filibuster Of Alito's Nomination After Considering His Record And Past Votes And Determining He Was “Contrary To Core American Values.” Then-Sen. Obama supported the filibuster of Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court after considering Alito's past decisions and record, according to Obama's 2006 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. Obama said he would "'be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values, you know. When you look at his decisions in particular during times of war, we need a court that is independent and is going to provide some check on the executive branch, and he has not shown himself willing to do that repeatedly.'" According to ABC News:
In January 2006, then-Sen. Obama joined 24 colleagues in a futile effort led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of now-Justice Samuel Alito.
On January 29, 2006, Mr. Obama told George Stephanop[o]ulos on “This Week” that he would “be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values, you know. When you look at his decisions in particular during times of war, we need a court that is independent and is going to provide some check on the executive branch, and he has not shown himself willing to do that repeatedly.”
Mr. Obama did seem to express some reserve about using the filibuster process, which in common parlance refers to a procedural Senate maneuver requiring 60 votes to end debate and proceed to a vote.
“I think that the Democrats have to do a much better job in making their case on these issues,” then-Sen. Obama said. “These last-minute efforts using procedural maneuvers inside the Beltway, I think, has been the wrong way of going about it, and we need to recognize because Judge Alito will be confirmed that if we're going to oppose a nominee that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake and frankly I'm not sure that we've successfully done that.” [ABC News, 5/30/09]
Clinton Voted Against Alito's Nomination After Considering His Record. Clinton explained in Judge Alito's 2006 confirmation hearing that she objected to his nomination to the Supreme Court after “carefully review[ing]” Alito's record:
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: The Constitution commands that the United States Senate provide the president with meaningful advice and consent on judicial nominations, and I take this constitutional charge very seriously. I have carefully reviewed the committee's hearings and Judge Alito's extensive record, I have met with the Judge, I have spoken with people who have strong opinions on both sides of this nomination and I have concluded that I cannot give my consent to his nomination to the Supreme Court. [C-SPAN, 1/28/06]