Fact-checkers on both sides of the political spectrum are taking Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to task for “inventing history” and giving vice presidential debate viewers a bogus “history lesson” regarding the confirmation of Supreme Court justices close to a presidential election.
At Wednesday night’s debate against Vice President Mike Pence, Harris argued against the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat recently vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Toward that end, Harris cited a similar event in which President Abraham Lincoln allegedly set the precedent of waiting until after an election to confirm a SCOTUS justice.
According to Fox News, however, the motive Lincoln had for holding off on confirmation which Harris attempted to use as historical evidence is entirely fabricated.
In 1864 — one of the, I think political heroes certainly of the President, I assume of you also, Mr. Vice President, is Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was up for re-election, and it was 27 days before the election. And a seat became open on the United States Supreme Court. Abraham Lincoln’s party was in charge, not only of the White House, but the Senate. But Honest Abe said, “It’s not the right thing to do. The American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States. And then that person can select who will serve for a lifetime on the highest court of our land.” And so Joe and I are very clear: the American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime.
Now, Harris isn’t entirely wrong. Lincoln did delay the confirmation of a justice until after the election. That, however, is where the truth of her claim begins and ends.
According to Dan McLaughlin of National Review, Lincoln never said anything even remotely close to Harris’ “quote” by the sixteenth president, nor did he delay sending a nominee to the Senate in order to let the American people “make the decision.” At that time, 27 days before the election, Senate was simply out of session.
Lincoln, of course, said no such thing. He sent no nominee to the Senate in October 1864 because the Senate was out of session until December. He sent a nominee the day after the session began, and Salmon P. Chase was confirmed the same day. And Lincoln wanted to dangle the nomination before Chase and several other potential candidates because he wanted them to campaign for him. Lincoln’s priority was winning the election, which was necessary to win the war — and he filled the vacancy at the first possible instant.
Kamala Harris is simply inventing history.
Even the left-bent Washington Post had the decency to fact-check the Democratic VP pick, reporting that Harris’ “little history lesson” during the debate “wasn’t exactly true.”
Lincoln historian Michael Burlingame explained to the paper that Lincoln told his aides he wished to delay the confirmation process because he was “waiting to receive expressions of public opinion from the country,” though the Post noted, “that didn’t mean he was waiting for ballots so much as the mail.”
“The overarching effect of the delay is that it held Lincoln’s broad but shaky coalition of conservative and radical Republicans together,” the Post explained. “Congress was in recess until early December, so there would have been no point in naming a man before the election anyway. Lincoln shrewdly used that to his advantage. If he had lost the election, there is no evidence he wouldn’t have filled the spot in the lame-duck session.”
There is simply no historical precedent that compels President Trump to abandon his presidential duty to nominate a justice.
“[V]acancies have arisen 29 times in presidential election years, during the administrations of 22 of the 44 presidents preceding the current one,” explained the Cato Institute’s resident constitutional scholar, Ilya Shapiro, “and those presidents made nominations all 29 times.”
It would appear that this is little more than further Democrat chicanery to keep Amy Coney Barrett from ascending to the Supreme Court.
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