President Donald Trump invoked the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday at the first presidential debate when arguing that a president’s constitutional power is for “four years, not three years,” when considering Supreme Court appointments.
Trump, who last week nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat vacated upon Ginsburg’s passing, was asked during the debate why it was appropriate for him to move forward with the confirmation process even though the country was in the midst of an election.
The president, in particular, argued that voters not only elected him, in part, based on the Supreme Court, but had also kept the Senate in Republican hands in 2018. To stress the point, Trump also invoked remarks that Ginsburg herself made in 2016 when arguing that a president’s constitutional authority to fill Supreme Court vacancies was not diminished during the final year of his term.
“The people already had their say,” Trump said. “Justice Ginsburg said very powerfully, very strongly … she said a president and a Senate [are] elected for a period of time, but the president is elected for four years. We’re not elected for three years. I’m not elected for three years.”
“So we have a president, we have a Senate, during that period of time we have an opening. I’m not elected for three years. I’m elected for four years,” the incumbent added.
As Breitbart News reported last week, Ginsburg told a Georgetown Law Audience in September 2016 that if a president nominated a Supreme Court justice in his last year in office, the Senate should consider the appointment. At the time, Ginsburg’s remarks were in the context of then-President Barack Obama nominating Judge Merrick Garland to the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia.
“The president is elected for four years, not three years,” Ginsburg told the audience. “So the power that he has in year three continues into year four, and maybe some members of the Senate will wake up and appreciate that that’s how it should be.”
Ginsburg’s made similar comments in July of that year when asked if the Senate had an “obligation to assess” Garland’s nomination.
“That’s their job,” the justice told the New York Times. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.”