In 2016, Republicans in the senate falsely asserted that United States policy is to never appoint a new justice to the supreme court in an election year, as an excuse not to allow Barack Obama to appoint Antonin Scalia’s successor. So it makes a lot of sense that plenty of people are calling them out as dishonest hypocrites now that they’re rushing through the appointment of a new justice in an election year.
But of course it wasn’t just Senate Republicans who justified those actions in terms that definitely apply to current circumstances only to advance the precise opposite opinions 4 years later. A whole host of operatives, activists and flacks joined the effort including, in a fun coincidence, Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s just-announced nominee to replace Rush Bader Ginsburg on the court.
Barrett was one of many Republican activists with a legal background who made press appearances to defend the senate Republicans’ refusal to even hold hearings for Merrick Garland. And in a February, 2016 interview with CBS News, part of which the network has now resurfaced, she justified it with a couple of arguments.
First, discussing Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 — an election year, by the way — Barrett first insisted that one of the issues at hand is the idea that Scalia, an arch conservative, should be replaced by another conservative instead of a moderate liberal like Garland. “Kennedy is a moderate Republican and he replaced a moderate Republican. We’re talking about Justice Scalia, one of the staunchest conservatives on the court, and we’re talking about him being replaced by someone who could dramatically flip the balance of power in the court. It’s not a lateral move,” Barrett said.
Notably, Ginsburg was one of the court’s most reliable liberal voices who prior to her time on the court was a feminist legal activist. Barrett on the other hand is a longstanding Republican who, among other things, served as part of George W. Bush’s legal team during the 2000 election recount fight, opposes abortion rights, and believes the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. In other words, if she takes RGB’s seat it will not be what one would describe honestly as a “lateral move.”
Barrett then changed arguments to two unrelated notions: That it was OK to block Obama’s nominee because things are far less polite than they were during the Reagan years and also, that there aren’t actually any rules for this process. “Frankly, the reality is we live in a different time,” Barrett said. “Confirmation hearings have gotten far more contentious. So I just don’t think we live in the same kind of time. So I think in sum, the president has the power to nominate, and the senate has the power to act or not, and I don’t think either one can claim that there’s a rule governing one way or the other.”
Watch the clip above.