Cornyn flip-flops on supporting Supreme Court nominees during election years

by | Sep 21, 2020 | Politics, Supreme Court

With less than fifty days until Election Day, Sen. John Cornyn is signaling his intent to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away over the weekend. 

It marks a change in Cornyn’s position from 2016 when he was staunchly against the nomination of Merrick Garland by President Barack Obama.

“At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, Texans and the American people deserve to have a say in the selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” Cornyn said at the time. “The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next President to make the nomination to fill this vacancy.”

Ironically, in 2003 as a freshman senator, Cornyn urged Democrats to stop blocking President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee. “It’s our obligation as senators and under the Constitution to give an up-or-down vote to any nominee who comes before the committee or before the Senate,” he said.

Cornyn’s Democratic opponent Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar has been pressuring the incumbent senator over his changing position.

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will use “use every arrow in our quiver” to block Trump’s nominee, but declined to give any further detail. 

It’s unclear what tools Democrats have left to block the nomination. In 2017, after Democrats attempted to block the nomination of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Senate Republicans proceeded to remove the 60-vote supermajority requirement for Supreme Court nominees.

That means Republicans would only need a simple majority of 51 votes to confirm Trump’s incoming nominee. Democrats would need at least four Republcian defections to successfully block the nomination. 

Some Democrats have floated the idea or been open to expanding the number of Supreme Court justices, most notably Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to preventing another Republican justice.

Conversely, Pelosi said Democrats should focus on winning elections to regain control of the Senate and has said the House will not leverage a potential government shutdown in October to prevent the nomination. 
At least a dozen Republcian-held Senate seats are considered competitive in 2020, including Cornyn’s. Democrats would need a net of three seats to gain a majority in the Senate if Biden wins as the Vice President casts the tie-breaking vote. If Trump wins, the Democrats would need to gain four seats.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at

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