Contradicting 2016 Stance, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman Now Supports Supreme Court Nominations Before Election

Portman joined other Republican Senators in backtracking from sentiments and promises made in 2016 when they argued an open seat on the court shouldn't be filled during the tail end of a contentious election year.

click to enlarge Senator Rob Portman - Photo: Official Headshot
Photo: Official Headshot
Senator Rob Portman

Stunning two or three people, Rob Portman, Senator from the state of Ohio, issued a statement late Saturday evening regarding the vacant seat on the Supreme Court that directly contradicted his fervent and widely disseminated statements from a mere four years ago concerning a very similar scenario.


A little more than 24 hours after Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away at the age of 87, and a scant 44 days before the election, Portman joined other Republican Senators in backtracking from sentiments and promises made in 2016 when they argued an open seat on the court shouldn't be filled during the tail end of a contentious election year.

Let's compare and contrast.

2020 Rob Portman says: “In the more than two dozen vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court during a presidential election year in our nation’s history, the sitting president made a nomination in every single case. Leader McConnell has said that he will hold a vote on any nominee President Trump sends to the Senate, and I intend to fulfill my role as a U.S. Senator and judge that nominee based on his or her merits. The president was elected in 2016, in part, based on a commitment to nominate men and women to the judiciary who would fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not advance public policy goals by legislating from the bench. Likewise, in both 2016 and 2018, the American people have re-elected a Republican Senate majority to help President Trump fulfill that commitment."

2016 Rob Portman said: "With a spirited and partisan presidential campaign well underway in the last year of a president, the question is whether this is the right time to go through what would be a highly contentious process with a very high likelihood the nominee would not be confirmed, or is it better to let the people have a voice through their choice for president and have a nominating process in a less partisan atmosphere? I acknowledge this is not an easy question to answer, but I think there is a wisdom in this leader’s words:

“'It would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is under way, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. That is what is fair to the nominee and is central to the process. Otherwise, it seems to me …we will be in deep trouble as an institution. Others may fret that this approach would leave the Court with only eight members for some time, but as I see it … the cost of such a result — the need to reargue three or four cases that will divide the Justices four to four — are quite minor compared to the cost that a nominee, the President, the Senate, and the Nation would have to pay for what would assuredly be a bitter fight, no matter how good a person is nominated by the President …'”

"Mitch McConnell? No, Vice President Joe Biden, when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the last year of a Republican president. There have been similar statements from the current Senate Democratic leader and the next one, but the point Biden made about the legitimacy of the nominee and the institutions of government is persuasive. I agree with him that it would be better to allow this confirmation to take place in a less partisan atmosphere once the people have spoken by factoring in this important issue as part of our presidential vote."

2020 Rob Portman says: “In 2016, when the vacancy occurred following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I said ‘the president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice … But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee.’ Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party, the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed. In the 19 occasions that a vacancy has occurred when the President and the Senate are of the same party, the Senate has confirmed the nominee and filled the seat in every instance but one. I look forward to seeing who President Trump plans to nominate and thoroughly assessing his or her qualifications for this important role.”

2016 Rob Portman said: "Some argue that the American people have already spoken. And I agree they have. Both the president and the Senate majority were fairly and legitimately elected. The last time we spoke as a nation, two years ago, the American people elected a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate in an election that was widely viewed as an expression that people wanted a check on the power of the president.

"The president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and I’m certainly willing to meet with his nominee. But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee. For the reasons Biden described above, it has been common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it has been 80 years since any president was permitted to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.

"I have concluded that the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in and to have the confirmation process take place in a less partisan atmosphere. Awaiting the result of a democratic election, rather than having a nomination fight in this contentious election-year environment, will give the nominee more legitimacy and, as then-Senator Biden pointed out, better preserve the institutional credibility of the Senate and the court."

Portman is expected to face little to no political repercussions for being a sackless liar, once again.

In case you were curious on what an outlier the current situation is compared to those other election-year vacancies Portman speaks of, here's a complete historical rundown of such vacancies.


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