Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was accused of hypocrisy on Sunday for advocating a swift replacement to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia following his death on Saturday.
CNN reporter Dana Bash, filling in as host on State of the Union, asked Leahy to comment on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that the body will not vote to fill Scalia’s seat until after the presidential election.
“I think he’s making a terrible mistake and he’s certainly ignoring the constitution and its responsibilities,” Leahy said.
The Senate has the sole authority to confirm or reject the president’s Supreme Court nominees, according to the Constitution.
Bash noted there was precedent for delaying the replacement, citing the Thurmond Rule, an unofficial rule in the Senate where the party not in the White House blocks a nomination during the last months of a president’s term.
“But Senator, I want to ask you about something called the Thurmond Rule, which is an informal agreement in the Senate that the party not in the White House blocks all judicial nominees during a presidential campaign season.” Bash said. “You subscribed to that when it was the opposite, so why is it different now?”
Leahy said he does not believe the rule applies here, prompting Bash to ask if he would still believe that if the roles were reversed.
“Well, there is no such thing as a Thurmond Rule. I used to tease the Republicans about that.” Leahy said.
Bash pressed Leahy to admit that his position was being shaped by partisan and ideological considerations.
“You know the Republicans are arguing it’s not about time spent in Washington, it’s about which president gets a chance to nominate the pick. And you know, I’ve been covering you in the Senate for a very long time and I just know from experience, as do you, where you sit on these issues depends on where you stand.” Bash said. “If there were a Republican in the White House and Democrats were in charge of the Senate right now, I bet you’d be arguing to move forward on the Supreme Court nominee. Fair?”
“No, in fact I was there when the Democrats were in charge of the Senate in the last year of President Reagan’s term, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and I urged that we go forward with President Reagan’s nomination and we did. So, I mean, I’m pretty clear where I am.” Leahy said.
Leahy assured Bash that partisan considerations would play no role in his vote for a replacement, which could potentially skew the court to the left.
“None of us intend to play politics with something as important as a Supreme Court nomination,” Leady said.