Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough if the Senate has a constitutional obligation to act on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and McDonough could not answer directly after being fact checked on the issue.
“Do you think that the Senate has a constitutional obligation to take this up? To vote?” Wallace asked.
McDonough explained that the Constitution is quite clear in this matter, saying that “advise and consent” means meetings and public hearings.
“We think that it is quite clear in the Constitution that when there is a vacancy, the president proposes the nominee,” he said. “And then we think that, as has been the practice for decades, in fact, centuries in the Senate, that advise and consent means meetings, public hearings where that judge, in this case, Judge Garland, is willing to go under oath on national television and answer their questions and then a vote in the committee and a vote in the Senate. That's what should happen here.”
Wallace then brought up the Washington Post fact check on this subject. The historical fact check concluded that there is no mention of a vote in the Constitution. All it says is that the Senate is charged with providing “advise and consent” to the president before a confirmation. Wallace continued, “there has been a long history, mostly in the 19th century, that the Senate has decided not to act in a number of cases.”
McDonough responded by saying that there was no need to go all the way back to the 1800s and that the public should look at the recent cases where they did act. Instead of answering the question about the Constitution directly, McDonough brought up historical precedent.
“Look, Chris, we don't need to jump back to the 19th century or the 1800s, right?” he said. “We're here in the 21st century. What we ought to do is look at the precedent over the course of the last many decades and as was the case when Vice President Biden was chairman of the committee, every nominee got a hearing, got meetings, got a vote in committee, got a vote on the floor. This is not difficult. This is the way it operates in the Senate and they ought not reach back to the precedent of the 1800s. Let's just do the way they've been doing it for a long, long time.”