If Clinton wins, more in GOP say no to 9 on Supreme Court
WASHINGTON >> The Supreme Court has existed with its full complement of nine justices for close to 150 years, no matter who occupied the White House. Now some Republican lawmakers suggest they would be fine with just eight for four years more rather than have Hillary Clinton fill the vacancy. The court has operated with eight justices for the past eight months as Republicans controlling the Senate have blocked confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his GOP colleagues have insisted that American voters should have a say, choosing the next president in Tuesday’s election. The 45th president — either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump — would fill the current vacancy created when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.
But several Republicans have said if the voters elect Clinton, they’ll block her nominees, effectively abandoning their advice and consent role for her entire term.
“If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said in an audio recording of his meeting with GOP volunteers on Saturday. CNN obtained a copy of the audio.
GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas have also suggested blocking any Clinton nominees. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a debate Monday night that he “can’t imagine” voting for any Clinton nominee though he stopped short of vowing to block a pick from a Democratic president.
McConnell says simply the next president will make the nomination to fill the current vacancy.
The size of the court is set by federal law and has changed over the years, but has been nine justices since 1869. When vacancies arise, they usually are filled within months, if not weeks. But there have twice been stretches of more than two years where the court was one justice short. Another six vacancies lasted more than a year. The most recent was in 1969 and 1970, when Justice Abe Fortas resigned and the Senate rejected two of President Richard Nixon’s nominees before confirming Justice Harry Blackmun.