Joni Ernst says her total flip-flop on Supreme Court is 'very consistent'


The Iowa senator opposed letting Trump fill an election-year vacancy as recently as 2018.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) claimed on Monday that her decision to break her past promise not rush through a Supreme Court nominee before the presidential election was "very consistent."

"I have been very consistent on this," she said during a Senate debate. "And in 2016 we followed the Vice President Joe Biden rule, that was important and that is what we have stood beside. The Biden rule says that — or that precedent — says that when there are divided parties, you have a presidency of one party and a Senate majority of another party, you wait. Right now we do not have a divided government situation. So I feel that I have been consistent, we are following the Biden rule."

The so-called "Biden Rule" was really little more than a 1992 speech in which then-Sen. Biden said the Senate should consider opposing a theoretical appointment until after the election, should one arise. He said nothing about only doing so during periods of divided government.

Ernst and her Senate Republican colleagues joined together in 2016 to block the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

"In the midst of a critical election, the American people deserve to have a say in this important decision that will impact the course of our country for years to come," she wrote in March 2016 statement. "This is not about any particular nominee; rather this is about giving the American people a voice."

But following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ernst has backed Donald Trump's scheme to rush through his nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, weeks before the election.

Reporter Caroline Cummings reminded Ernst during the debate that she was explicitly contradicting her own past comments. "Senator, in 2018 when the Republicans controlled the Senate and we had a Republican, Donald Trump, president, you doubled down on the position that should be held off until after the election. So how is that different?"

Ernst ignored the question.

"The president has made a nomination and so as a member of the Judiciary Committee I will do my duty," she said. "We will vet the nominee, we know who the nominee is now and we will move forward with that nominee. Bottom line, what I won't allow to happen is the radical left to move forward and pack the court."

An Ernst spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

On Friday, Ernst said she had decided to abandon her previous promises to follow the "precedent set" because Democrats would do the same if they were in control.

"What they're hearing from Democrats is that they will pack the court," she said of her Iowan constituents. "They'll get rid of the Senate filibuster. And so, you cannot tell me that Democrats would not be doing the same thing right now, and none of them deny that. None of them will deny it."

Trump has said he is eager to fill the seat "very quickly" and hopes the larger bloc of right-wing justices will strike down the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — in its entirety.

In Monday's debate, Ernst also attempted to present herself as a defender of that law's provisions banning discrimination on the basis of preexisting medical conditions.

"This is an issue that is very important to me because I did grow up in a very modest home with two siblings that have preexisting conditions," she said.

She continued, "My brother and my sister are both Type I diabetics, they have relied on insulin their entire lives. I have a nephew with autism. Preexisting conditions. And so making sure that the federal government is caring for those and providing equal access to health care products, making sure that they are affordable, that should be the federal government's role."

Ernst has voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare, even without an alternative to replace it. She backed several versions of the GOP's 2017 "Trumpcare" proposals, even though it would have rolled back protections for customers with preexisting conditions.

Ernst is seeking a second term in the Senate this November. Polls show she is trailing Democratic businesswoman Theresa Greenfield by an average of 2.6%.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.