Washington (CBS) — Vice President Mike Pence defended President Trump’s push to confirm a new justice to the Supreme Court before Election Day, telling “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell in an exclusive interview that moving forward with a confirmation during an election year is not without precedent and the president has an “obligation” to put forth a nominee.
“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 continued. “And President Trump believes that it’s his responsibility and his duty to do that again.”
A 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service found 13 instances of Supreme Court seats becoming vacant before Election Day during election years since 1791. In nine of those instances, presidents submitted nominees to fill the seat before the election. Ginsburg’s death 46 days before Election Day is the second-shortest amount of time between a seat becoming vacant and an election, behind only Chief Justice Roger Taney’s death in October 1864.
Judges Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the leading contenders for the nomination, met with Mr. Trump at the White House on Monday, a source close to the president told CBS News. Pence hailed Barrett and the other finalists, 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.
Ginsburg died Friday at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, and Mr. Trump is urging the Senate to quickly take up his nominee, to be announced in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged Mr. Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the Senate floor, and Senator Lindsey Graham, who leads the Judiciary Committee, told the panel’s Democratic members on Monday that he believes it is “important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy.”
While Senate Democrats have few procedural tools at their disposal to block Republicans’ efforts to move forward with the confirmation process, they are urging their GOP colleagues to wait until after the inauguration before confirming a justice to fill Ginsburg’ seat.
Democrats point to Republicans’ decision in 2016 to block Judge Merrick Garland’s confirmation to the Supreme Court after the death of Scalia, as GOP senators argued at the time the American people should have a voice in selecting the president that will fill the vacancy.
But McConnell said the situation this year differs from that of 2016, as the same party now controls the White House and the Senate.
Mr. Trump told reporters he is considering five women to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. His top contenders are Barrett and Barbara Lagoa of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.