The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has sent Republicans into a panic. They know that under the constitution, President Obama has the right to nominate Scalia’s successor. They know that they have to schedule confirmation hearings on that person because if the Senate goes out of session, the president has the right to make a “recess appointment” to the court. The last time this happened was during the term of Dwight Eisenhower, who made three recess appointments. One of those, William Brennan, was appointed one month before the 1956 presidential election.
As usual, Republicans can’t tell Americans the truth about what the president is permitted to do, both by the constitution and by historical precedent. So, of course, they are trying to paint President Obama as out of the mainstream of presidents, should he choose to offer a nominee to replace Scalia before the November election. But at the February 13 GOP debate, Ted Cruz got called out for lying about past Supreme Court appointments.
Moderator John Dickerson asks Cruz about where his cutoff date would be for nominating a Supreme Court justice when a president is approaching the end of his term. Cruz replies,
Well we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court Justices in an election year and let me say…
Dickerson interrupts to ask Cruz to clarify whether he meant “appointing” or “confirming.” Cruz continues,
80 years of not confirming. For example LBJ nominated Abe Fortis. He was not confirmed, he was defeated.
That statement was Cruz’s first error. Fortas was already on the court when President Johnson nominated him to become Chief Justice in 1968, a presidential election year. The Senate filibustered the nomination, and Fortas eventually withdrew his name. So he was “defeated” only in the sense that a vote on his elevation to Chief Justice was blocked. There was never a Senate vote.
Then Cruz wades in more deeply. Dickerson observes that current justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in 1988. Cruz replies that Kennedy was confirmed in 1987, and Dickerson says,
He was appointed in ’87, he was confirmed in ’88. Is it apppointing or confirming?
Cruz replies, “In this case it is both,” and Dickerson says that he wants “to get the facts straight for the audience.”
How does the partisan Republican audience react to Dickerson’s remark? They boo. Sir, how dare you confuse us with facts while we’re busy working up some fresh hatred for President Obama?
Here’s the exchange, via CBS News/Crooks and Liars:
Featured image via CBS News/Crooks and Liars screen capture