Wisconsin Public Radio

Ron Johnson Flip-Flops On Supreme Court

In 2016, wouldn't take up Obama' nominee six months before presidential election, now will do it for Trump.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Sep 19th, 2020 08:56 pm
Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Saturday that he supports confirming a new Supreme Court justice this year, an about-face from 2016 when he said the process should wait until after a new president and Senate were elected.

Johnson’s comments came the day after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as President Donald Trump said he might nominate a new justice as soon as next week and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to give the nominee a vote.

Ginsburg, who died at 87 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, was one of four justices nominated by Democratic presidents to the U.S. Supreme Court. If Trump moves forward with his nominee, and the Senate confirms them, it would give conservatives a 6-3 majority.

Four years ago, following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland on March 16, 2016. Senate Republicans blocked a vote on Garland, a move Johnson supported.

“That puts the American people in charge really by their votes in November in terms of what direction the Supreme Court is going to take,” Johnson told reporters on May 6, 2016.

“What we’re saying is let the American people have a voice,” Johnson said. “We’re six months before an election. They’re going to decide the direction of the country. Let them decide the direction of the court through their votes.”

Days later, after Johnson met with Garland, he issued a written statement on May 10, 2016, unequivocally opposing a vote on a nominee before a new president took office.

“Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court,” Johnson said. “Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate – elected by the people only a few months from now – should make that important decision. I can’t think of a fairer or more democratic process.”

Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment Saturday, but in interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wispolitics, he said the situation was different now than in 2016 because the same party controls both the Senate and the White House.

“Right now, we don’t have divided government,” Johnson told the Journal Sentinel. “That makes all the difference in the world.”

Asked by the newspaper why “letting the voters decide” doesn’t apply when the same party controls the Senate and the White House, Johnson said, “It’s just the reality of the situation.”

Johnson also said he’d support the vote in a lame duck session of Congress.

“President Trump was elected for a term that runs into January. Republicans have control of the Senate until the end of this Congress. We should fulfill that constitutional duty,” Johnson told Wispolitics.

Johnson pointed to a story in the conservative National Review that showed presidents throughout history had nominated Supreme Court justices to fill vacancies in election years, and Senators had historically confirmed nominees from their own party.

Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who favored a confirmation vote for Garland in 2016, issued a statement Saturday arguing that Republicans should heed the standard they set four years ago.

“The election that will determine our next President and control of the Senate is only 45 days away,” Baldwin said. “We are weeks away from an election for President and control of the Senate, and people are voting right now. After the voters have spoken in the election, and the elected President and new Senate have taken office, we can then move forward on a Supreme Court nomination.”

State Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler said Johnson had betrayed his own stated principle.

“If Ron Johnson shatters the trust of his constituents by voting for a nominee before the next Senate is seated, he will cement his legacy as a disgrace to Wisconsin and demonstrate to voters that he is unworthy of public office,” Wikler said.

Republicans currently hold a 53-47 seat majority in the U.S. Senate, although at least two Republicans – U.S. Sen Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins – have said they don’t support voting for a new nominee immediately.

Collins said in a statement Saturday that the decision for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made “by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”

In A Change From 2016 Stance, Ron Johnson Favors Vote On SCOTUS Nominee was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

11 thoughts on “Ron Johnson Flip-Flops On Supreme Court”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    Classic modern-day Republican position. If we do it, it’s okay. If they do it, it’s outrageous, illegal, and unamerican. Clinton was chastised loudly and repeatedly for his conduct with a White House intern. But it’s okay to follow a president with a known record of sexual harassment and an admitted customer of prostitutes, who paid off women who he had affairs with while he was married. I could go on.

  2. Carol Diggelman says:

    In the May 9, 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, “Ron Johnson meets with Garland, stands firm against nominee,” Senator Johnson is quoted as saying ‘My advice to President Obama and the rest of my Senate colleagues has not changed. Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court.’…Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate—elected by the people only a few months from now—should make that important decision’.

    If Senator Johnson’s word means anything, if his principles mean anything and if he wants us to believe that he represents all of us, he will oppose filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg until after the election when there is a newly elected president and Senate. Now we have a divided government and are six weeks from the election; it is even more critical that we postpone the nomination and confirmation of her replacement.
    Carol Diggelman

  3. mkwagner says:

    What I fine equally galling is how fast Trump and his Republican-minions announced they were going to replace RBG. My grandmother had a saying, “The body wasn’t even cold and in the ground….”

    Their mysogny knows no limits.

  4. Douglas Johnson says:

    Ron Johnson’s pathological hypocrisy is beyond belief as is his twisted logic that, according to his reasoning, the decision to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg is some how different from 2016 when Scalia’s vacancy was to be replaced. The absurdity is that Johnson like Lindsay Graham firmly believe in their own lies as being truth.

  5. frank a schneiger says:

    Years ago, people on the left got into the bad habit of calling those who disagreed with them “fascists,” “Nazis” and “racists.” They were told, be careful, that the real things will come down the road someday, and there will be no good terms to describe them. Needless to say, they didn’t listen. (They were also told if they didn’t stop using drugs, their kids would be mutants and Republicans. They didn’t listen to that either.)

    Dishonesty, hypocrisy, cynicism and shamelessness can’t come as any surprise to us in the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s death. The hostile takeover of the Republican Party by Trump has merely finalized the efforts of McConnell, Fox News and many others over the years. It has nothing to do with “values.” It is all about naked power, exercised on behalf of the top 1% and the 40% who make up the all-white base of the Republican Party.

    In addition to Justice Ginsburg’s death, there were other events this weekend that raise the possibility that there may not be a bottom. What is becoming increasingly clear week-by-week is that Trump, his enablers and his paymasters are capable of anything. Evidence of that came from Trump’s all-white rallies this weekend, especially the one in Minnesota. At that rally, he celebrated the shooting of Ali Velshi of MSNBC as “the most beautiful thing,” a reflection of “law and order.” He told his white audience that, like thoroughbred horses, they had “good genes.” He slurred Congresswoman Omar, accusing her of having come to this country by marrying her brother, adding that she should be prosecuted for something, the something never specified. He then went on to ask his white crowd if they were “having a good time with your refugees.” He also said that he should be able to “license” the major news networks to make sure they tell “the truth.”

    All of this was greeted with loud applause by the unmasked, un-social-distanced faithful. “When the real thing comes down the road….” Which brings us to Senator Ron Johnson. As the United States begins to feel like 1930s Europe, there is some vocabulary from that time that has value today. It is clear that Johnson is a sycophant, now closely tied to Trump and his criminal administration. He is also something else, a Quisling, a term used to define officials and prominent people in Europe who were willing to go along with the Nazi program because they saw something in it for themselves.

    There are others like him in the Senate, McConnell, Cruz, Hawley, Cotton, to name just a few. What distinguishes them from Johnson is that they are smarter than he is, but the fact that he is way in over his head makes him no less responsible. None of these Republicans has distanced themself from Trump’s increasingly open racist, fascistic and lying comments. The reason for that is that the Republican Party, in addition to being in the pocket of the Kochs. Menard, Hendricks, Adelson, Mercer and corporate and Wall Street money, now depends on out-and-out fascists, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, along with the Russians, for electoral success.

    Then the white base. “No, no, no! We’re not racists” say those who cheer Trump’s comments, or take the position, “I don’t agree with everything he says, but….” Or the “evangelical Christians” who have turned the Jesus of peace, love, justice and inclusion on his head in their quest for power and money. ” We’re just “pro-life” say those whose concern for life doesn’t seem to extend to children in cages, families destroyed, or the children and families killed by American bombs in Yemen. Or the large numbers of children living in dire poverty in this country. And who, because they consider the fact irrelevant to their goals, deny the reality that abortions increase in countries that outlaw them.

    The mostly non-white “otherized”groups are all part of the “surplus populations” that Trump, his enablers, Ron Johnson, and “the base” also feel have to take one for the team by dying or getting sick from COVID-19. And, along with Black people, LGBTQ people and “liberals” provide the props needed to stir up the base and raise money.

    There is an interesting thing about turning points in history. They never ring a bell to tell you that they are happening, when there is no turning back. One of those turning points, the 1930s, produced a low point in civilization since humans began to walk upright. All in Europe, the true “dark continent” and the source of many immigrants – refugees – who migrated to this country after the war. My immigrant parents from a “shithole” country, the former Yugoslavia, welcomed refugee relatives to our small house on 26th and Mineral Streets in 1947. They showed up in rags with nothing. They have been lucky to be here, as we all have, and have thrived in this country.

    I would hate to think that they are wearing MAGA hats these days. But people have very short memories. They should not be allowed to avoid the fact that this election is truly binary. To vote for Donald Trump is to vote for fascism, not in some glib, off-the-cuff sense, but for the real thing. The thing that got many of them here in the first place.

    All of these statements,

  6. Trmott says:

    This is no longer 2016 and events have consequences. Some think the GOP should delay the process outlined in the Constituion, and postpone the SCOTUS appointment. They overlook recent history during which the Democrats and their allies in the deep state have further poisoned the political well.

    The actions of the Democratic party in attempting to unseat the President starting from before he even took office have changed the political climate for the worse in DC. Not that it was okay before, but it seems a whole lot worse now. Accusations of treason, labeling people as traitors, and so on …. I cite the Russia-gate/Mueller (actually Weissman) witch hunt based on HRC’s fictitious Steele dossier, and unfounded accusations of Trump campaign Russian collusion; and the leakers and their media cronies, so-called whistleblowers; illegal spying on Trump’s campaign and inner circle via bogus FISA warrants, framing of General Flynn, and more. Let me get this straight … Now the retaliation-ready New Yorker on the receiving end of this fiasco for 4 years is supposed to act collegially as some kind of statesman instead of a street fighter? Be serious; the wagons are circled. They picked a fight with the wrong guy.

    I never cared for DJT, and didn’t vote for the stinker, but amazingly the Democrats have collorated to seeminglyt create an aura of sympathy for him.

    I don’t even remember how I felt about the Garland matter at the time. I was essentially apolitical back then. But what’s been going on as a soft coup under the banner of resistance during Trump’s term has made me completely unsympathetic to Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, Nadler, AOC’s crowd, Swalwell, Waters, Rice, Powers, and assorted intelligence community (and FBI such as McCabe, Comey, Strzok/Page) leaders who are their collaborators. And of course the compliant liberal “media” with their anonymous sourced “bombshells”.

    So if Ron Johnson has “changed his tune” in these past four years, I’m not going to blame him. Sure it’s political, but I think I understand.

  7. Steven Midthun says:

    Why am I not shocked that the old argument of “the Democrats didn’t work hard enough, and suddenly Trump is President” keeps floating around. That same trope, they didn’t work hard enough to oppose us, seems to creep into play whenever the Republican string pullers realize that they’ve created a mess. Who put forth Johnson? Walker? Trump?

  8. Trmott says:


    As I recall RJ was a virtual unknown who just tossed his hat in the ring in a speech at a GOP gathering. He got my vote mostly because he WASN’T being propped up by someone else, and I think that’s how it is SUPPOSED to work in a democracy.

  9. frank a schneiger says:

    In a democracy, the person who gets the most votes wins the election. The person who loses by 3 million votes doesn’t. In a democracy, you don’t have an Electoral College. In a democracy, you don’t have a Senate in which 4 senators from 2 states with a combined population of 1 million people wield enormous power, while 4 from two states with 60 million people have none. In a democracy, you don’t have a filibuster. In a democracy, you don’t have a party that gets 40% of the vote controlling its legislature, or a governor who takes orders from Koch, Menard and Hendricks. (That would be Wisconsin) In a democracy, you don’t have organized and well-financed efforts by a political party to suppress the votes of those who might vote against them. In a democracy, blatant lying is not normalized. In a democracy, you don’t have a propaganda outlet (Fox News) masquerading as a news channel spreading lies, race hatred and attacks on one of the pillars of democracy, a free press, all with the active support of that nation’s president. In a democracy, your nation aligns itself with other democracies, not with corrupt plutocracies and autocracies. In a democracy, you don’t have the most extreme inequality on earth. In a democracy, you don’t have a judiciary and a Supreme Court that only serve the interests of the wealthiest people, of corporations and the dominant race. In a democracy, there are indivisible benefits that are for everyone, not divisible ones only for the well-connected and powerful, and which actively exclude “the others.” In a democracy, you don’t have a “royal family,” even if it is a corrupt, low-class one.

    Where you do have those things is in a plutocracy or autocracy masquerading as a democracy. In those systems, there will always be a place for Ron Johnson, Scott Walker, Grothman, Vos, Fitzgerald and the gang. They aren’t democracies. Nor are they exceptional. They are just another country.

  10. Alan Bartelme says:

    @Trmott – in 2016 the GOP delayed the process outlined in the US Constitution and postponed the SCOTUS appointment of President Obama. They claimed there was precedent to delay, and that the voters should choose the next president first. If they didn’t like Garland, why not hold a vote, say “NO”, and move on?

    And yes, the president of the United States should act like a statesman, not a petulant child who got picked on. If he needs an example of how to act with dignity and class, see President Obama.

  11. TransitRider says:

    Forgotten in the Merrick Garland saga is the fact that Garland was not a liberal, that Obama (unlike Trump) went out of his way to nominate somebody who could appeal to both sides of the aisle.

    Before Obama named Garland, Republican Senator Orin Hatch said:

    “The president told me several times he’s going to name a moderate [to fill the court vacancy], but I don’t believe him. [Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”


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