Pence Says Trump Has ‘Obligation Under Constitution’ to Name Supreme Court Nominee

September 22, 2020 Updated: September 22, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence told CBS in an interview on Monday that President Donald Trump is constitutionally obliged to name a nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

Ginsburg died Friday from complications due to pancreatic cancer, leaving an empty seat on the nation’s highest court, for which Trump has vowed to propose a nominee, with Pence saying it is expected “before the week is out.”

“President Trump believes that he has an obligation under the Constitution of the United States to put forward a nominee for the Supreme Court,” Pence said.

“There have been 29 times that there have been vacancies since George Washington through Barack Obama. In all 29 cases, the president has made a nomination to the Supreme Court during an election year,” he said. “And President Trump believes that it’s his responsibility and his duty to do that again.”

Trump confirmed on Monday that Barbara Lagoa and Amy Coney Barrett are on his Supreme Court shortlist.

“We’ll pick somebody that’s outstanding, very qualified. They’re all qualified, but somebody that is outstanding,” Trump said.

Pence, in his interview on CBS, commented on Trump’s shortlist, saying the president “has made it clear that it’s our objective to appoint pro-life jurists to our federal courts at every level.”

“What I’m convinced of is that Judge Barrett and the other finalists on the list will interpret the Constitution in a way that’s consistent with the great tradition of Justice Antonin Scalia,” Pence said.

Scalia’s views on strict constitutional limits on government have had a strong impact on conservative political thought in the United States, according to political scientist Joe Ura, in an op-ed published in The Epoch Times shortly after Scalia’s death in 2016. “Through his intellectual influence on the leadership of the contemporary conservative movement and the Republican Party, I think it is fair to call him easily one of the most important and impactful Supreme Court justices ever,” he wrote.

Pence said that while he believes a nomination for the vacant seat can proceed quickly, he said it’s “important for us to take time to pay tribute this week to a true public servant. We join the nation in mourning the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She paved the way for women in the law.”

Trump issued a formal proclamation that honored Ginsburg as a “trailblazer, not only in the field of law, but in the history of our country,” and ordered flags flown at half-staff.

“Renowned for her powerful dissents at the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg epitomized powerful yet respectful argument; that you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable to them,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the stage after speaking to first-year students at Georgetown Law in Washington, on Sept. 26, 2018. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)
Trump makes his way to board Air Force One
President Donald Trump makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Md., on Sept. 21, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a statement on Twitter: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She was an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law.”

Ginsburg’s death has set up a fierce battle over nominating a replacement for the now-vacant Supreme Court seat, with Trump and his Republican supporters vowing to proceed with a nomination ahead of the Nov. 3 election, while Biden and Democrats call on the president to wait until after the presidential vote.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Sunday brushed off Democratic complaints over nominating a replacement.

“Let’s be very clear—if the shoe were on the other foot and the Democrats had the White House and the Senate, they would right now be trying to confirm another member of the Supreme Court,” Barrasso said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed that Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the Senate floor, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Monday that he thinks it is “important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy.”

Earlier on Sunday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she did not support Trump’s plan to move fast on filling the seat, becoming the second of the 53 Republicans in the 100-seat chamber to object publicly following Ginsburg’s death. On Saturday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the presidential election winner should pick the nominee.

The other potential swing vote, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), still hasn’t said how he’ll vote, but a 50-50 tie can be broken by Pence.

Most Republican senators have said they support Trump nominating a replacement. But there’s a possibility that one or more will emerge and join the small group opposed to the president on this issue.

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.

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