Stephanopoulos, Todd Gang Up on Cruz, Rubio over SCOTUS; Urge Them to Consider Obama’s Pick

In separate Sunday morning interviews of Republican presidential candidates and Senators Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Marco Rubio (Fl.), ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos and NBC’s Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd urged them to consider whomever President Obama nominates to replace the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia since “the people elected President Obama” and he doesn’t serve for “only three years.”

Beginning with Stephanopoulos versus Cruz, the Clinton Foundation donor remarked to Cruz that then-President Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy to the bench in February 1988 with 13 months left in his second term and argued that this means that it should be the President’s “right to nominate a justice and the Senate's responsibility to give that nominee an up or down vote.”

Similarly to how The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol educated ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd later in the show, Cruz noted how it was the Democratic Party that was responsible for the denigration of judicial appointments:

[T]he Senate has not confirmed a nominee that was named in the final year, an election year, in 80 years. This is a lame duck President and, by the way, the only reason Anthony Kennedy was nominated that late is that Democrats in the Senate had gone after and defeated two previous nominees, Robert Bork, which set a new standard for partisan attacks on a nominee, and Doug Ginsburg, so it was the Democrats that had dragged it out for many months to make it that late[.]

Stephanopoulos followed up by wondering if Cruz would “filibuster anyone” that’s nominated, but Cruz then indicated he would so the ABC News chief anchor snapped back that “the people elected President Obama” twice so he should be given more courtesy. 

Cruz fired back by simply noting that while “elections have consequences” like 2012, the midterm elections also had significance in the balance of power: 

They did, but — but that — that was three years ago and elections have consequences. The people also gave us a Republican Senate this last election because they were fed up with Barack Obama's lawlessness, but Justice Scalia's passing also has a profound impact on this primary.

As for Meet the Press (where Todd supposedly uttered “oh God” when Cruz compared Scalia to Reagan), the Texas Senator was pressed on whether or not the Senate has “an obligation to at least consider a nomination that President Obama puts forward.”

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“I understand that you guys don't want it, and you would prefer to let the elected — but doesn't the United States Senate have an obligation to at least go through the process and have an up or down vote,” Todd added.

When Cruz highlighted how Scalia’s death should be the 2016 presidential election even more significant, the unsatisfied host responded: 

So you believe the presidency is only three years long in each term? I mean, if we go down this road, we're cutting off a presidency with a year to go and more importantly, Senator Cruz, the risk here for conservatives is that if you have all these four-four ties in the court, then the more liberal leaning circuit will then have, you know, their rulings will take precedent...But why not go through the process? Shouldn't the United States Senate do its duty and go through the process? Reject it, Senator, but go through the process[.]

Rubio continued his full-court press on the Sunday morning talk shows on NBC as Todd informed him that he “understand[s] the decision that you may not support, and that the Republican majority doesn't want this, but aren't they obligated to at least go through the motions here?” 

Todd further lamented that “you're saying don't even go through the motions” to which Rubio confirmed and Todd put forth the argument about Republicans creating a scenario where presidents would only serve three year terms with the fourth providing them no leeway for what they please (never mind how the Constitution describes presidential appointments as “advice and consent” not “advise and rubber stamp”): 

I mean, do presidential terms end after three years? I mean, that's what I don't understand, is why not go through the advice and consent? You don't have to approve it. You can reject it. That's what happened in '68, but why not go through this process?

The relevant portions of the transcript from ABC’s This Week on February 14 can be found below.

ABC’s This Week
February 14, 2016
10:07 a.m. Eastern

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's begin with that news about Justice Scalia. You've said that President Obama should wait to name a successor, but Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy with 13 months left in his term. He was confirmed in February, 1988. President Obama has more than 10 months left in his term. Why isn't it his right to nominate a justice and the Senate's responsibility to give that nominee an up or down vote?

CRUZ: George, the Senate has not confirmed a nominee that was named in the final year, an election year, in 80 years. This is a lame duck President and, by the way, the only reason Anthony Kennedy was nominated that late is that Democrats in the Senate had gone after and defeated two previous nominees, Robert Bork, which set a new standard for partisan attacks on a nominee, and Doug Ginsburg, so it was the Democrats that had dragged it out for many months to make it that late

(....)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But does — does that mean — does that mean that you're going to filibuster anyone — anyone that President Obama nominates?

CRUZ: Absolutely. This should be a decision for the people, George.

(....)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but the people elected. President Obama, didn't they?

CRUZ: They did, but — but that — that was three years ago and elections have consequences. The people also gave us a Republican Senate this last election because they were fed up with Barack Obama's lawlessness, but Justice Scalia's passing also has a profound impact on this primary. It underscores the stakes for the people of South Carolina.

The relevant portions of the transcript from NBC’s Meet the Press on February 14 can be found below.

NBC’s Meet the Press
February 14, 2016
10:46 a.m. Eastern

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you, does the United States Senate have an obligation to at least consider a nomination that President Obama puts forward? I understand that you guys don't want it, and you would prefer to let the elected — but doesn't the United States Senate have an obligation to at least go through the process and have an up or down vote?

REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ (Tex.): Not remotely.

TODD: Why?

SEN. TED CRUZ: It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. 

(....)

TODD: All right, but I want to go back to the United States Senate here. So you believe the presidency is only three years long in each term? I mean, if we go down this road, we're cutting off a presidency with a year to go and more importantly, Senator Cruz, the risk here for conservatives is that if you have all these four-four ties in the court, then the more liberal leaning circuit will then have, you know, their rulings will take precedent.

CRUZ: Look, the consequence of a four-four tie is that the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed by an equally-divided vote. This has happened many times in history that there have been vacancies, sometimes on a closely-contentious case. They'll hold it over for the next term, when the replacement justice arrives.

(....)

TODD: Okay, I understand that. But why not go through the process? Shouldn't the United States Senate do its duty and go through the process? Reject it, Senator, but go through the process.

(....)

TODD: I understand the decision that you may not support, and that the Republican majority doesn't want this, but aren't they obligated to at least go through the motions here? I mean, you're saying don't even go through the motions. Why?

REPUBLICAN SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (Fl.): Correct. Well, we will go through the motions, but not while Barack Obama's in the White House.

TODD: Well why?

RUBIO: It's not going to happen.

TODD: I mean, do presidential terms end after three years? I mean, that's what I don't understand, is why not go through the advice and consent? You don't have to approve it. You can reject it. That's what happened in '68, but why not go through this process?

RUBIO: Because actually, it's not just for the Supreme Court, even for appellate court, it's been both parties have followed this precedent. There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating, or you stop the advice and consent process. You basically say, “at this point, with a few months left in your term, no accountability from the ballot box and the appointment you're going to make[.]

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center