Grassley Says He'd Resist Any Supreme Court Nomination in 2020

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(Bloomberg) -- Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said he won’t hold hearings or a vote on a Supreme Court nomination if a vacancy occurs in the 2020 presidential election year, abiding by the same standard Republicans set in refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016.

"I’d follow that. That would be just the 12 months -- or the, let’s say the 10 months before the election of 2020," Grassley said in an interview Friday on Iowa Public Television.

But he added that President Donald Trump "wouldn’t agree with that," nor would Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. A McConnell spokesman declined to comment on Friday, and a White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2016, McConnell made the extraordinary move of refusing to allow the Senate to vote on Obama nominee Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February of that year. Enraged Democrats accused McConnell of stealing the seat, which was filled in 2017 by Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.

"It was very legitimate that you can’t have one rule for Democratic presidents and another rule for Republican presidents," Grassley said during the Iowa broadcast.

It’s unknown whether a Supreme Court vacancy would occur in 2020, or if Grassley would still be Judiciary Committee chairman. Grassley spokesman Michael Zona confirmed that if that were the case, the senator would intend to wait until the following year to consider a justice.

Republicans based their refusal to consider Garland’s nomination partly on a standard they called the "Biden rule" after former Vice President Joe Biden. When he was head of the Judiciary Committee and George H.W. Bush was president in 1992, Biden said in a speech that any Supreme Court nomination should be deferred until after that year’s election. But there was no vacancy and the suggestion was never made into a formal rule.

Four years earlier in 1988, in another presidential election year, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Republican President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy as a Supreme Court justice. Biden was the Judiciary chairman who oversaw Kennedy’s successful confirmation.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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