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Ohio's Senators Have Changed 2016 Positions On Confirming A Supreme Court Nominee

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, left, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.
J. Scott Applewhite
Ohio U.S. Sentators Rob Portman, left, and Sherrod Brown.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has been called a hypocrite in recent days for not doing what he called for in 2016 – holding off on confirmations for a U.S. Supreme Court justice replacement in a presidential election year.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who urged confirmation in 2016, has changed his position too. But they both say things are different now.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Portman said he was not in favor of confirming former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Portman said he wanted to let voters weigh in that November and have the confirmation take place in a less partisan atmosphere.

With just two months before the 2020 election, Portman says that doesn’t apply now.

“In fact, I made the point that divided government, and I quote, 'is not the time to go through what would be a highly contentious process with a very high likelihood that the nominee would not be confirmed,'" Portman said.

Portman noted in 2016, there was a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate so confirmation could be tough. He says voters changed that by electing a Republican president and keeping a Republican-controlled Senate, so this confirmation will likely go through.

Back in 2016, Brown wanted to take up Garland's nomination for confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate. He was critical of his fellow senators for not holding confirmation hearings.

This time around, he wants the Senate to hold off. Brown said it’s too late to appoint someone to the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Brown said the American people should decide the fate of the court by their choices for president and U.S. Senate during the November election.

“People have already started voting," Brown said. "They deserve to have a say on the court that will decide the fate of their health care, their workplace safety, their criminal justice and civil rights."

Ohio voters can start early voting on October 6, and Election Day is November 3. Voters are deciding whether President Donald Trump will get a second term, and the vacancy at the Supreme Court will likely be a driving force for some voters to make their voices heard.

For more information on the 2020 Election check out WOSU's voting guide How To Vote In The 2020 Election and What To Know About The 2020 Election to make sure your vote gets counted.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.