Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., on Tuesday said Congress should move forward with confirming a Supreme Court justice, reversing her 2016 position on not filling a vacant seat before a presidential election.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday evening, leaving an open seat on the nine-person high court. President Donald Trump will now have the chance to nominate a third justice to the bench.
Capito said in a news release Tuesday that the confirmation process should begin while Trump is still in office.
“President Trump and the Republican Senate, both elected by the American people, should act to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s passing. The Constitution authorizes the president to name a nominee, and it gives the Senate the power to approve or disapprove of that nomination,” Capito said.
“West Virginians and the American people expect us to exercise that responsibility,” she continued. “I support the choice to move forward with the confirmation process and will consider President Trump’s nominee on her merits as West Virginians would expect me to do. In these trying and polarized times, it is important to exercise our constitutional authority and move forward with the process.”
In March 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia died, Capito and Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. During that time, Capito said the confirmation process should wait until the 2016 election was over.
“Before a Supreme Court justice is confirmed to a lifetime position on the bench, West Virginians and the American people should have the ability to weigh in at the ballot box this November. My position does not change with the naming of a nominee today,” she said in 2016.
“With just a few months until the election, West Virginians should have an opportunity to express their views and elect a new president who will select the Supreme Court justice.”
Capito issued the 2016 statement more than eight months before the general election. From Tuesday, there are 43 days until the 2020 election.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement Monday that starting the confirmation process now, and not in 2016, is “hypocrisy in its highest form.”
“For the sake of the integrity of our courts and legal system, I do not believe the U.S. Senate should vote on a U.S. Supreme Court nominee before the Nov. 3 election. For Mitch McConnell and my Republican colleagues to rush through this process after refusing to even meet with Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 is hypocrisy in its highest form,” Manchin said. “The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and it is simply irresponsible to rush the adequate and proper vetting required of any new candidate for the bench.
“Pursuing an overtly partisan approach to confirming a Supreme Court Justice will only deepen the political tribalism we are witnessing across this country,” he continued. “I implore every Senator, regardless of party, to honor their responsibility to act in a manner that brings this country together rather than feed a cycle of endless political division.”
In 2016, Manchin supported hearings for Garland before the election.
"Senators have a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials. I believe the Senate must give Merrick Garland fair consideration and evaluate his record, legal qualifications and judicial philosophy."
Trump said he plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee Saturday.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include 2016 comments from Manchin.