On Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour, as she interviewed Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso over the issue of filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, host Judy Woodruff twice framed criticism of Republicans as coming from “the American people” as she spent the entire interview pressing him over the push to confirm a new justice before the election.
At one point, she played a clip of Senator Barrasso from March 2016 arguing in favor of waiting until after the 2016 election to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Court rather than allow then-President Barack Obama to do so. She then posed:
I know you’re saying now it’s different because you have a President and a majority in the Senate being the same party, but it looks to the American people — to many people — as if what the only thing that’s changed here is political party — that political party takes precedence over everything.
After Senator Barrasso argued that Republicans had received a mandate by picking up two seats in 2018, and also noted that, unlike in 2016, the Senate and presidency are now controlled by the same party, Woodruff repeated her suggestion that “the American people” are dissatisfied as she followed up: “Right now, it is the choice of the Republicans, and, again, I mean, for the American people looking at this, it looks as if, you know, there Washington goes again, and it’s all about political party over country.”
She did not cite any polls to suggest that anyone other than supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are against Republicans filling the seat immediately. And, even if she had checked, it turns out that polling results vary widely depending on how the question is asked, with some findings that an overwhelming majority supporting doing the confirmation before 2020 ends while others indicate a preference for letting the winner of the presidential election make the choice.
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Below is a transcript of Woodruff’s questions to Senator Barrasso from the Tuesday, September 22, PBS NewsHour:
WOODRUFF: Senator, I know you’re saying now it’s different because you have a President and a majority in the Senate being the same party, but it looks to the American people — to many people — as if what the only thing that’s changed here is political party — that political party takes precedence over everything.
SENATOR BARRASSO: Well, there’s a materialistic difference between 2016 and 2020, and it’s that the President and the Senate is of the same party. And then you take a look at what happened in 2018 where there wasn’t a presidential election in place, but with the Kavanaugh nomination and the meat grinder that the Democrats put him through, what we saw after that is the voters decided we needed more Republicans in the Senate, and we actually picked up two seats. And I will tell you, Judy, if the shoe were on the other foot, the Democrats would be trying right now, if it was a Democrat Senate and a Democrat President, to fill this vacancy.
WOODRUFF: Right now, it is the choice of the Republicans, and, again, I mean, for the American people looking at this, it looks as if, you know, there Washington goes again, and it’s all about political party over country.
WOODRUFF: Senator, what is it that’s so — I hear you saying, “activist judges,” but what is it that concerns you about having a fourth judge — justice appointed by a Democrat? What — I mean, I’m giving the hypothetical — what if Joe Biden were to win the election and a Democrat in the White House would appoint — what is it about a 5-4 Court versus a 6-3 Court that matters so much?
BARRASSO: Well, first of all, you know, the Democrats have a war room and a playbook of what they plan to do if they win the presidency, the Senate, and hold the House of Representatives — and it’s actually to expand the size of the Court — it’s to add liberal activist partisan judges — things that Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Please don’t do that” — they want to expand the size of the Senate and pack that as well by making D.C. a state. We have seen this whole list of horribles from the Democrat playbook if they win all three.
WOODRUFF (interrupting): We haven’t heard that from former Vice President Biden or from Senator Schumer, the Minority Leader.
BARRASSO: Well, I would say I saw Senator Schumer in March standing outside the Supreme Court yelling at the building, saying, “Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, you will pay the price.” This is something the Democrats — it came up in the debates for the presidency throughout about expanding. The House of Representatives has voted a bill to pass to make D.C. a state to give the Democrats two more Senate seats in the Senate. So this is part of their playbook — this is part of their plan.
And this is to me one of the main reasons that we cannot allow Joe Biden to get elected President or the Senate to go to the Democrats because they are going to continue this train going far to the left, and the driver of the train is not Joe Biden. It’s Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Ocasio-Cortez — I mean, those are the ones that are really controlling the party. When you saw Chuck Schumer the other night have a press conference — and this is a guy who doesn’t like to share the microphone or the camera with anybody, but Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is with him. That tells you who’s really running the Democrat party today.
WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, I think it’s fair to say that’s your perspective as a Republican Senator from the state of Wyoming. That’s not what the Democrats would say or at least not what I hear them saying. But we can continue this conversation another time. Senator John Barrasso, we thank you.