In an appearance on this week’s broadcast of “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) vowed the U.S. Senate would “move forward without delay” on seeking a replacement for Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Arkansas Republican said there would be a vote and that he believes the nominee would be confirmed.
Senator Cotton, are you talking about a vote on this justice before the election six weeks from Tuesday?
COTTON: Good morning, Chris. At the outset, first, let me express my condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s family and my regard for her lifelong dedication to public service.
As for your question, the president said he’s going to it submit a nominee probably as early as this week and the Senate will exercise our constitutional duty. We will process that nomination. We will conduct hearings. We will be thorough and deliberate and careful, just as we were with nominations of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. We will move forward without delay.
WALLACE: Does that mean that there will be a vote to confirm before the election?
COTTON: Chris, there will be a vote. There have been some cases, like Justice Ginsburg herself, in which the nomination and confirmation process took less than 44 days. There have been other cases in which it took longer. So it’s too soon to say right now. But we will move forward without delay.
WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that you might have the confirmation vote before the election, but the — the hearing, rather, before the election but the actual vote after. Let’s take a look, you raised it, at how long it has traditionally taken the Senate to confirm a new justice. Let’s put this up on the screen.
Since 1975, the average has been 40 days from when a president nominates of justice until the Senate holds its first hearing. And 70 days from nomination to Senate confirmation. We now have 44 days until the election and there has been no nomination by the president yet. Why the rush to judgment?
COTTON: Chris, we are not going to rush. We are not going to cut corners or steps. We are going to move forward without delay. And as I said, there have been some cases in which it has taken newer than 44 days, to include Justice Ginsburg’s confirmation process herself, some it has taken longer. We will move forward without delay and in deliberate fashion, we will process the president’s nominee. And I believe that we will confirm that nominee as well.
WALLACE: Back in 2016, after Justice Scalia died, President Obama named federal judge Merrick Garland as his new nominee to the court. And, as you well know, you were part of the Senate then, Senate Republicans blocked the choice of Garland. Here’s what you said at that time.
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COTTON: In a few short months, we will have a new president, and new senators, we can consider the next justice with the full faith of the American people. Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the people? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court?
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WALLACE: Now, Garland was nominated nine months before the election, and you were saying then nine months before the election it was wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in. So if it was wrong then, nine months before the election, why is it OK now, six weeks before the election?
COTTON: So, Chris, in 2014, the American people elected a Republican majority to the Senate to put the brakes on President Obama’s judicial nominations. In 2018, we had a referendum on this question, just a month before the 2018 midterms. We had the vote on Justice Kavanaugh. There could not have been a clearer mandate because the American people didn’t just re-elect Republicans, they expanded our majority. They defeated four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh. There re-elected the one Democratic senator who did vote for Justice Kavanaugh.
So we have a clear mandate to perform our constitutional duty. That’s what the Senate majority will do now. That’s what we did back in 2016 as well.
WALLACE: You really don’t think there is any hypocrisy at all in saying we need to give voters — because, I mean, you can parse the 2014 election, the 2018 election any way you want, but you stated a pretty firm principle in 2016 about Merrick Garland. It’s wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in. You don’t see any hypocrisy between that position then and this position now?
COTTON: Chris, the Senate majority is performing our constitutional duty and fulfilling the mandate that the voters gave us in 2016 and especially in 2018.
WALLACE: I just want to — I promise this is the last question on this particular subject. Let’s do a thought experiment. You’re a lawyer, you do hypotheticals, or you did when you were in law school. Let’s assume if President Trump were to lose in the election six weeks from now, if the Senate were to change hands so that it went from Republicans to Democrats, in a lame duck session with a president who had been defeated and a Republican majority that was about to be out of office, some would say the lamest of lame duck sessions, are you saying you still think it would be proper to vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee to the court?
COTTON: Chris, as I said, we are going to move forward without delay and there will be a vote on this nominee. But to the point, Donald Trump is going to win re-election and I believe the Senate Republicans will win our majority back because the American people know that Donald Trump is going to put nominees up for the federal courts who will apply the law, not make the law.
Joe Biden is not going to do that. Joe Biden still refuses to even identify who he might nominate. And Joe Biden and Senate candidates like Cal Cunningham in North Carolina and Theresa Greenfield in Iowa need to put their cards on the table. They need to say what they would do in this kind of nomination.
WALLACE: OK, let me ask you one other question about this. Republicans now have a 53 to 47 vote majority. So you can only afford to lose three Republican senators, assuming that all the Democrats oppose the president’s nominee, and still get — I guess it’s going to — we can say she, because the president says it will be a woman, confirmed with Mike Pence breaking the vote.
But let’s look at the tally of where Republican senators stand at this point. In recent days, senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have both expressed doubts about confirming a justice so close to an election. Chuck Grassley has as well. So the question is, how sure are you, Senator, that Republicans will actually have the 50 votes plus Vice President Pence to confirm a Trump nominee?
COTTON: Well, Chris, I will let all those senators speak for themselves and make their decisions on their timeline. As Mitch McConnell has said, there will be a vote. And I don’t think that we should discount Democratic votes either. As I mentioned, the one Democratic senator up for re-election in 2018 who voted for Justice Kavanaugh was re-elected.
Now I know the Democrats are saying radical things right now. Democrats are threatening to riot in the streets. Democrats are already rioting in the streets though. They are threatening to pack the court. They were already threatening to pack the court. Democratic senators can look at what happened in 2018 when four of their colleagues lost their re-election a month after voting for Justice Kavanaugh and the one who did vote for Justice Kavanaugh got re-elected.
So I wouldn’t discount Democratic votes at this point either.