Politics

Rubio Backtracks on His Own Supreme Court Comments From 2016

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with President Donald Trump in 2017.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with President Donald Trump in 2017. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty
click to enlarge Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with President Donald Trump in 2017. - PHOTO BY JOE RAEDLE/GETTY
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with President Donald Trump in 2017.
In 2016, when President Barack Obama nominated attorney Merrick Garland to become a Supreme Court justice after the death of Antonin Scalia, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio rebuked Obama's nomination, calling it pointless in the last legs of his presidency.

"I mean, I don't see the point of it.... I don't think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president's term — I would say that if it was a Republican president," Rubio said in March 2016.

As it turns out, that was a lie.

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, prompting nationwide mourning and a question of whether President Donald Trump should nominate someone to the court so close to the November 3 election.

Just two hours after Ginsburg's death was announced, Florida's junior senator — former governor Rick Scott — released a statement saying "it would be irresponsible" to leave Ginsburg's seat open. But Rubio was tougher to pin down, waiting three days before he issued a statement yesterday supporting Trump's right to nominate a new justice.

"In 2016, President Obama exercised his Constitutional duty and nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and the Senate exercised its Constitutional obligation and decided not to consent," Rubio said in a statement. "Now, President Trump should exercise his duty to name a nominee. And the Senate should once again exercise its Constitutional obligation and decide whether or not to consent to his choice."

Rubio went on to say that unlike Obama in 2016, Trump is on the ballot for the upcoming election, so he can be "rewarded or held accountable" for his choice by voters. Rubio said he will review the record of the nominee and withhold consent if the nominee does not meet the standard of office.

Still, Rubio's statement stands in stark contrast to his words in 2016, even though he promised back then that his stance wasn't political. While Obama's nomination came eight months before election day, this time around, there are only six weeks to go before the end of Trump's term. In some states, early voting has already started.

Rubio's words have already drawn criticism on social media, with some pointing out the senator's reputation for going back on his word.
Rubio was even featured on a short video by the Lincoln Project political action committee about the hypocrisy of those who spoke out against the Garland nomination:
On Saturday, Trump said he would nominate a woman to the court to fill Ginsburg's seat. His pick will have to be confirmed by the Senate, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to see a vote on a nominee before the end of the year when Congress ends its session.

So far, only a handful of Senate Republicans have said they don't support filling the seat before the election. 
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos