Former Sen. Roy Blunt, looking back at the GOP-controlled Senate's decision in 2016 to allow the nomination for now-Attorney General Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court to run out, said he has been asked more about that happening than any other subject during his tenure, he said Sunday.
"I will say in that year, I had more people at the airport and other places mention that single thing to me than I've ever had of any other thing, 'Why didn't you give Garland a hearing?'" the Missouri Republican said on NBC News' "Meet the Press," adding that as Garland would not have been confirmed, "having a hearing would [have been] a mistake for him and for the country."
The difference would have been that the president's party, in the year before a presidential change, would have had the majority, but "If you don't do that two months before the election, you've always got the sense that your side will just collapse on Election Day because they wonder why they sent you there if you could have done this and didn't."
Blunt served in the Senate from 2011 to 2023
"I think the way these hearings go, that would in many ways have been unfair to him to put him through a hearing to know that he would not be approved," said Blunt. "I actually supported the majority leader's decision at the time and still think in the politics of the country and the way these confirmations have happened when you have the majority and the president is from the other party, there's just a long history of not filling an election-year vacancy."
Meanwhile, show host Chuck Todd recollected a conversation he had with Blunt 10 years ago, after then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules on judicial confirmations. At that time, Blunt warned that would change the Senate in "fundamental ways forever," as it had been an "example to the world that there was a way in a democracy to protect minority rights."
"I think my prediction was exactly right," said Blunt Sunday. "Once these things happen, I can't think of an example where they're rolled back. And I think that week Sen. [Mitch] McConnell said to Sen. Reid on the floor, 'you're going to be sorry you did this and you may be sorry you did this sooner than you think,' and that's exactly what happened. There are almost no instances where you could change the rules in one way and hope that the next Senate will say, 'Oh, now it's up to us.'"
Blunt added that he does not remember the last time a Democrat as president was able to have a Republican-controlled Senate confirm a Supreme Court nominee.
"But you do have to remember that you've got this long period of time from 1932 until the '60s into the '80s where there's no Republican Senate," said Blunt. "Democrat presidents got a lot of nominees confirmed."
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court's approval ratings have fallen drastically, but Blunt said he thinks the court is "still such a critically important part of our structure."
"The court does bring finality to things that sometimes I don't agree with, sometimes others don't agree with, but what we don't want to do is bring the court down with the rest of us," Blunt said.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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