Ernst breaks promise on Supreme Court nominees because she says Democrats are mean

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Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst suggested that the public wants the Senate to rush through a Trump nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) blamed Democrats on Friday for her flip-flop on rushing through Supreme Court nominees close to a presidential election.

At a campaign stop in Grimes, Iowa, Ernst explained her sudden change of mind: "What I'm hearing from Iowans is just that they've heard that (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer has made some pretty big threats months ago, even before any of this came up. And so they see this as a way to push back against the radicalization of our Supreme Court."

The court already has a Republican-appointed conservative majority.

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Pressed about her apparent hypocrisy, Ernst suggested that it is OK because, she insisted, 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 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."

Ernst said Monday that she would back Donald Trump's scheme to ram through a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week. "Once the president puts forward his nominee for the Supreme Court, I will carry out my duty—as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—to evaluate the nominee for our nation's highest court," she wrote in a statement.

She issued an apology for sending out a fundraising email focused on the Supreme Court vacancy almost immediately after Ginsburg's death was announced, while making sure to note that she "never saw it."

Four years ago, Ernst joined with other Senate Republicans to block the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, even refusing to hold hearings.

"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 said in a statement in March 2016. "This is not about any particular nominee; rather this is about giving the American people a voice."

"We must wait to see what the people say this November, and then our next president will put forward a nominee," Ernst said then.

She and the GOP Senate majority kept the seat vacant for a full year, allowing Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the court after his inauguration in 2017.

Even after Trump took office, Ernst stood by her view that no Supreme Court seats should be filled in election years. She told the Des Moines Register in July 2018 that no sitting president should appoint justices to the Supreme Court in a presidential election year, even if it was Trump. "It's precedent set," she told the paper, "So come 2020, if there's an opening, I'm sure you'll remind me of that."

But on Friday, Ernst claimed that the voters want the seat filled, and that that is fine because the Republicans hold both the White House and the Senate. "I think Iowans see the situation is different," she said. "There was divided government then. We have a president and a Republican Senate at this point. I'll do my duty, whatever that is. However the committee decides to proceed is how I'll decide to proceed."

Poll after poll has shown most Americans do not want Trump to fill Ginsburg's seat unless he wins reelection in November. Ginsburg's dying wish was that her replacement should be chosen by the next president. A poll conducted Sept. 21-24 found that, by a nearly 20-point margin, voters want those wishes honored.

And in Iowa, polls have also shown that voters don't want Ernst to still be in the Senate come January. According to RealClear Politics' polling average, she is trailing Democrat Theresa Greenfield by 2.6% five weeks before the election. This makes her even less popular in the state than Trump, who is currently polling at dead even with Joe Biden in the state.

A spokesperson for Ernst did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.