Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, flip-flopped Monday on whether a Supreme Court nominee in an election year should be appointed to the court by a president whose party could be leaving office.
In 2016, Gardner said the American people should have the final say, voting in a president who would then fill a Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of the conservative justice Antonin Scalia. The Republican-controlled Senate at the time refused to even hold a hearing on Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
“Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American people deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court Justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come,” Gardner said a full seven and a half months before the 2016 election.
Now, just 43 days before the Nov. 3 election pitting Republican President Donald Trump against Democratic challenger and former Obama Vice President Joe Biden, Gardner has changed his tune following the death Friday of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“When a President exercises constitutional authority to nominate a judge for the Supreme Court vacancy, the Senate must decide how best to fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent,” Gardner said in a written statement Monday evening. “I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm.”
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated the Garland block, have both said they will rush a nominee through the approval process as quickly as possible.
Gardner’s Democratic Senate opponent, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, chastised Gardner for siding “with President Trump instead of the people of Colorado by voting to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice weeks before the election.”
Hickenlooper also blasted Gardner for caving to Trump after the president praised him for being “very, very loyal to the party.”
“Hours after Donald Trump pressured him to get in line, Cory Gardner dutifully obeyed,” Hickenlooper said. “In 2016, Senator Gardner set a clear standard that the people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice – but now he broke it to stand with the president at the expense of Colorado, as he’s done 100% of the time.”