Forty-five days before the fight of his political life, and one day after being thrust into a national spotlight by the death of a Supreme Court justice, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner addressed the high court’s vacancy for the first time Saturday but declined to say whether President Donald Trump should be able to choose the next justice.
“I hope that before the politics begins — because there will be plenty of time for that — that we have some time for this country to reflect on the legacy of a great woman who rose to our nation’s highest court and the work that she has done for this nation, whether you agree or not,” the Republican senator told Club 20, a Western Slope business group.
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday set the stage for what promises to be a contentious fight over who to replace her with — and when.
Four years ago, Gardner said that a Supreme Court vacancy in February 2016 should not be filled by President Barack Obama because the Democrat was in his final year as president: “I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision,” Gardner said then.
Gardner was asked by a Club 20 moderator Saturday whether he stands by what he said in 2016. He did not directly answer the question, saying instead that it’s too soon to discuss the Senate’s work and the political battles to come.
“There is time for debate, there is time for politics, but the time for now is to pray for the family and to make sure that we keep their — that family in our hearts and prayers as we mourn as a nation,” Gardner said.
Democrats have been quick to remind him of his 2016 words since Ginsburg’s death was announced Friday. That evening, Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, left Gardner a voicemail message in which he urged Gardner to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee until after Inauguration Day in mid-January.
Gardner trails Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper in a race that will help determine which political party controls the Senate next year.
“We need to make sure that Senator Gardner upholds the commitment he made four years ago,” Hickenlooper told volunteers at a phone bank Saturday afternoon. “It’s the same circumstances, except moreso. The Senate must not confirm a new justice until the American people have weighed in at the ballot box — until the president elected in November has the opportunity to make this decision.”