Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., says she favors consideration of a Supreme Court nominee by President Donald Trump.
Capito announced her position in a statement this morning. Controversy has swirled over proximity to the upcoming General Election, as well as the Senate GOP majority’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in 2016.
This morning, Capito said, “President Trump and the Republican Senate, both elected by the American people, should act to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s passing.
“The Constitution authorizes the president to name a nominee, and it gives the Senate the power to approve or disapprove of that nomination. West Virginians and the American people expect us to exercise that responsibility.”
The vacancy occurred following Friday’s death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a progressive icon.
President Trump has signaled he will go forward with a nomination to fill the seat, announcing his pick as soon as Saturday.
I will be announcing my Supreme Court Nominee on Saturday, at the White House! Exact time TBA.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2020
Only two members of the 53-member Senate GOP majority — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said they oppose moving forward with consideration of President Trump’s nominee. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah today said he would support a floor vote.
Capito’s statement indicates support for moving forward with that process, although it does not say whether a vote should occur before or after the General Election.
“I support the choice to move forward with the confirmation process and will consider President Trump’s nominee on her merits as West Virginians would expect me to do,” she stated. “In these trying and polarized times, it is important to exercise our constitutional authority and move forward with the process.”
Voting for the General Election has already started in some states. West Virginia’s early voting period begins Oct. 21.
After Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on March 16, 2016.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the Senate’s GOP majority did not have any hearings on Garland’s nomination.
“Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” McConnell wrote in a 2016 op-ed with then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
“It is today the American people, rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election, who should be afforded the opportunity to replace Justice Scalia.”
On March 16, 2016, Capito said the election cycle should be concluded before the Supreme Court nominee was considered.
“Before a Supreme Court justice is confirmed to a lifetime position on the bench, West Virginians and the American people should have the ability to weigh in at the ballot box this November. My position does not change with the naming of a nominee today,” Capito said in 2016.
At that point, Capito concluded, “With just a few months until the election, West Virginians should have an opportunity to express their views and elect a new president who will select the Supreme Court justice.”
Today, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Capito said the situation has changed since 2016. She mentioned the “bruising” confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the Senate’s expanded GOP majority after the 2018 elections.
“While there are differences in my statements most certainly, I think the circumstances that have changed really compel us to move forward and to make this decision this year,” she said.
Capito’s General Election challenger, Paula Jean Swearengin, criticized the shift in Capito’s position.
“We knew this hypocrisy was coming,” said Swearengin, a Democrat. “We knew we couldn’t trust Shelley to even uphold her OWN words.
2016 vs. 2020
We knew this hypocrisy was coming.
We knew we couldn’t trust Shelley to even uphold her OWN words.
— Paula Jean Swearengin (@paulajean2020) September 22, 2020