Take it From the GOP: Supreme Court Nominees Are Held to a Higher Standard

March 20, 2017

Nominations to our nation’s highest court have long warranted and received more scrutiny than any other position. The role of a Supreme Court Justice differs significantly from any other judgeship. As Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley once said, “The Senate's job is not only to provide advice and consent by confirming nominees who are intelligent and accomplished. Our job is to confirm nominees who will be fair and impartial judges, individuals who truly understand the proper role of a Justice in our system of government.” Indeed, several Senate Republicans have voted against nominees to the Supreme Court after supporting their nominations for a lower court or other position.

A Justice must prove they are an independent and impartial voice who understands the important role for which they have been chosen. As the Republican Whip, Senator John Cornyn, stated just a few years ago, “the burden of proof is on the nominee.”

Watch video of GOP’s previous comments here.

IN THE PAST, REPUBLICANS VOTED AGAINST SUPREME COURT NOMINEES THEY HAD SUPPORTED FOR LOWER POSITIONS

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) supported the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be a District Judge for the Southern District of New York – then opposed her nomination to the Supreme Court. [102nd Congress Nomination PN807, 111th Congress, 1st Session, RCV 262]

Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) supported the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be a Judge on the 2nd Circuit Court and to be a District Judge for the Southern District of New York – then opposed her nomination to the Supreme Court.  [105th Congress, 2nd Session, RCV 295; 111th Congress, 1st Session, RCV 262; 102nd Congress Nomination PN807]

Sen. Hatch supported the nomination of Elena Kagan to represent the United States at the Supreme Court as Solicitor General – then opposed her nomination to the Supreme Court. [111th Congress, 1st Session, RCV 107; 111th Congress, 2nd Session, RCV 229]

REPUBLICANS ONCE KNEW THAT THE SUPREME COURT NOMINEES ARE HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “An appointment to the Supreme Court is one of the most important positions an individual can hold under our Constitution. It is a lifetime position on the highest Court of the land. I take very seriously my constitutional role of advice and consent. The Senate's job is not only to provide advice and consent by confirming nominees who are intelligent and accomplished. Our job is to confirm nominees who will be fair and impartial judges, individuals who truly understand the proper role of a Justice in our system of government.” [Floor Remarks, 8/3/10]

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “Because Supreme Court Justices have the last say with respect to the law and have the ability to make precedent, they do not have the same kinds of restraints lower court judges have. So we need to be convinced these nominees have judicial restraint—in other words, the self-restraint to resist interpreting the Constitution to satisfy their personal beliefs and preferences.” [Floor Remarks, 8/6/09]

Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT): “’I will examine Ms. Kagan’s entire record to understand her judicial philosophy. My conclusion will be based on evidence, not blind faith. Her previous confirmation, and my support for her in that position, do not by themselves establish either her qualifications for the Supreme Court or my obligation to support her,’ Hatch said.” [Politico, 5/10/10]

Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT): “Hatch voted for Kagan to be the nation's first female U.S. solicitor general in 2009 — a position that has a limited number of years of service. ‘That doesn't mean I'm going to vote for her for the Supreme Court for life — the most important court in the world,’ he said.” [Deseret News, 7/1/10]

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The American people know what they want in a Supreme Court Justice. They want someone who will apply the law fairly and impartially ‘without respect to persons,’ as the judicial oath requires. They do not want someone to be a rubberstamp for any administration. Ms. Kagan is currently a member of President Obama's administration and serves at his pleasure in a position that lasts no longer than the administration itself. By contrast, today she was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Nation's highest Court. The standard of scrutiny is clearly much higher now. Now we must determine whether someone who is a member of the President's administration will be an independent and impartial jurist on the Nation's highest Court.” [Floor Remarks, 5/10/10]

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX):

CROWLEY: But does she meet at this point the sort of misgiving level there now is that would warrant any kind of filibuster?

CORNYN: Well the burden of proof is on the nominee. The president had a constitutional role to nominate officials, but the Senate has the constitutional role as you know of advice and consent. [CNN State of the Union, 6/27/10]

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “In truly extraordinary cases, I reserve the prerogative to vote no on confirmation or even to vote to deny an up-or-down vote.” [New York Times, 4/11/10]

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS): “Unlike the Federal circuit court, where she has served since 1998, a Justice on the Supreme Court is not necessarily bound by existing legal precedent. If confirmed, there would be no higher court to deter Judge Sotomayor from making decisions that would become the binding law of the land. For these reasons, I intend to oppose her nomination.” [Floor Statement, 7/22/09]

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO): “Judicial nominees should meet a substantially different standard than a person appointed by the president to serve for no more than four or eight years.  These nominations are for life, and a full review of a nominee's view of the Constitution and the court should be required. Past confirmation should only be a starting point.  The old standard of 'the president has been elected, and his nominee meets the basic standards' should give way to an understanding that this person is likely to serve on the Supreme Court long after the president has left office.” [Press Release, 5/10/10]

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “Supreme Court Justices are vested with the power to interpret the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Such responsibility, power and longevity is unparalleled anywhere else in American public life. As such, we must be very cautious in selecting those to whom we grant membership on the Court.” [Ledger-Enquirer, 8/6/09]