Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers calling for the Senate to delay nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia, who died this weekend during a hunting trip in Texas, until after the presidential election.
Grassley, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, holds an outsized role in the confirmation process, as the Judiciary Committee initiates the vetting process for nominees and oversees all confirmation hearings.
“The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year,” Grassley said in a statement released Sunday. “Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”
Less than two hours before releasing his statement, Grassley told a Des Moines Register reporter that he would not comment on how his committee would handle a nomination, saying that he “wouldn’t make any prognostication on anything about the future because there’s so many balls in the air when those things are considered.”
The last justice to be confirmed during a presidential election was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by President Reagan in 1987, was confirmed by a vote of 97-to-0 in February 1988. Grassley, who was then a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to confirm Kennedy.
During a 2008 Senate Republican Conference hearing on “removing politics from the judicial confirmation process,” Grassley expressed his displeasure with what he called “unjustified slowness” of the confirmation process, and the Senate Democrats whom he felt were holding up President George W. Bush’s court appointments for partisan reasons.
“Unfortunately, the Democrats have been employing some fast and fancy footwork to avoid their Constitutional responsibility…” Grassley said during the meeting, adding that “Democratic leadership is putting partisan advantage ahead of the health of our judicial system.”