John McCain Sure Has Changed His Mind About Supreme Court Nominees

He used to think the Senate should vote on them.
Perhaps McCain no longer believes elections have consequences.
Perhaps McCain no longer believes elections have consequences.
Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat vying to challenge John McCain for his Senate seat this fall is accusing the Arizona Republican of hypocrisy over the effort to replace -- or rather not replace -- the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Once McCain was a very prominent member of a bipartisan group of 14 senators who united in the second term of George W. Bush's presidency to ensure that the Senate dealt with judicial nominations.

The idea, as McCain has often said, was that elections have consequences, and that the president gets to have his nominees approved if they are qualified, regardless of whether senators like their politics. The gang of 14 eased the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

McCain still has an explanation for his bipartisan stance on his website:

From Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to Senator Jon Kyl, Arizona has a rich and storied legal history. For Senator McCain, one of the best ways to honor that legacy is to work with whomever is the President and other Senators to fill vacancies with the most qualified people who are willing to serve their country as judges.

But McCain declared Monday that he supported the plan of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to refuse to even consider filling Scalia's seat.

“I believe that we should wait until after the next election and let the American people pick the next president, and we should consider who the next president of the United States nominates," McCain said on a Phoenix radio show.

That came as a surprise to many observers familiar with McCain's long-standing position that presidential nominees should receive a vote -- even some he didn't think were qualified.

The campaign team for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), who's running to replace McCain, found the senator's switch so noteworthy that they went looking for those previous occasions when he explained why presidents deserve votes on nominees. And they found them.

Speaking about getting votes on Bush nominees in 2005, for instance, McCain told MSNBC's Chris Matthews, "The American voter was very well aware of what kind of judge the president of the United States was going to appoint and they decided to re-elect him."

More such quotes can be found on Kirkpatrick's website, and you can watch McCain below.

UPDATE: 11:25 p.m. -- McCain campaign spokeswoman Lorna Romero responded with a statement criticizing President Barack Obama's policies and saying that a Senate Democrat's 2007 speech had set a new "precedent," although McCain has backed nominations since then.

Here is Romero's statement:

"It was Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick who said no one should 'second-guess' President Obama, so it's no surprise to see her marching in lockstep with the Democratic Party machine once again. Congresswoman Kirkpatrick is a rubber stamp for President Obama's failed policies -- from supporting Obamacare and the president's failed trillion-dollar stimulus to advocating for more reckless federal spending, the dangerous Iran Nuclear Deal, and now liberal judges.

"As he has stated, Senator McCain agrees that the Senate ought to follow the precedent set by Senator Chuck Schumer, who in 2007 with 18 months left in President George W. Bush's presidency urged his Democratic colleagues not to confirm any Supreme Court nominee 'except in extraordinary circumstances.' The fact is, any semblance of cooperation went out the door when Senator Harry Reid invoked the 'nuclear option' last Congress to usher through a wave of lifetime Obama judge appointments. In an election year with the long-term balance of the Supreme Court at stake, Senator McCain believes the American people should not be deprived of the opportunity to have a voice at this critical moment."