Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Monday debated with several colleagues during a break in Monday’s Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, taking issue with them wondering how the process has suddenly become so political.
Immediately after the network brought the Fox News Sunday moderator onto their special coverage panel, Wallace noted he wanted to respond to both constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley and Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman.
“Congressman Gowdy suggested ‘How did we get from almost unanimous votes for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a unanimous vote for Antonin Scalia to the hyper-partisan situation we’re in now?’” Wallace declared. “There is not one step. You have to look back at 2016 when Antonin Scalia died suddenly and with, I think, 269 days to go President Obama named Merrick Garland as his nominee to the court.”
“In an exercise of pure political power—not to say it’s unconstitutional, but they simply decided they weren’t going to entertain or meet with Merrick Garland or have a hearing on Merrick Garland—now with three weeks, 22 days, left to go they’re having the hearing for Judge Barrett,” he added.
Wallace also pushed back on Turley and Fox News anchor Shannon Bream calling it a “reach” for Senate Democrats to suggest Barrett will be a deciding vote to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act.
“In fact, what they’re hearing is a ruling by a Texas federal judge which in fact struck down the entire Affordable Care Act,” the veteran newsman stated. “It may be the court doesn’t decide to do that. But that’s the case that’s before the court. That’s the action that the judge at the lower court took that they’ll be considering. So I don’t think it’s such a reach to say that is the potential implication of the 6-3 conservative majority on the court that the Affordable Care Act is on—will be on the docket when they hear that case.”
Turley, meanwhile, agreed there was “rising hypocrisy from both sides” when it came to Garland’s nomination compared to Barrett’s before adding that Wallace “raises good points” on the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the ACA.
“The lower court did strike down the ACA but there do not appear to be a majority — does not appear to be a majority of votes from our count of overturning the entire act,” he continued. “The betting money is that conservatives might join liberals.”
Wallace quickly pushed back, pointing out that Turley was “predicting how judges” would vote when neither of them knows what is going to definitively happen with the court’s decision.
“The fact is for Democrats to talk about the cases of these individual people and to say that their lives might be at stake is not an irrational leap,” he added. “That’s the case that’s being heard by the court.”
Gowdy, meanwhile, argued that Wallace was oversimplifying how the Senate became so polarized when it came to SCOTUS confirmations, noting that several nominees before Garland received ample Democratic “no” votes.
“I would like to make one point,” he said. “I pointed out that Scalia had zero ‘No’ votes and Amy Coney Barrett will get zero ‘Yes’ votes from Democrats. And Mr. Wallace said what happened was Merrick Garland, that can’t possibly be what happened because Samuel Alito got 40 ‘No’ Democrat votes a decade before there was somebody named Merrick Garland!”
Wallace responded that he agreed that it “didn’t start with Merrick Garland” before highlighting that current Chief Justice John Roberts “sailed through” his confirmation during the 2000s. He then referenced Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) lecturing Democrats to follow civics over politics during the hearing.
“Here’s my question to you, Congressman Gowdy: Is it civics that the Republicans blocked the Merrick Garland nomination and are pushing this one through now 22 days, or is it pure politics?” Wallace asked.
“It’s pure raw politics, but also what is pure raw politics is the one Republican who is actually done what most of us want to see, which is treat Supreme Court justices fairly is Lindsey Graham, who voted for Elena Kagan and [Sonia] Sotomayor,” Gowdy replied. “The reward for that is a historic level of money trying to keep him out of the Senate.”
The Fox anchor, however, shot back that while he agreed with Gowdy that “the whole system is messed up and the politics is out of control,” Graham is hardly the person to hold up as a paragon of virtue at this moment.
“It was Lindsey Graham who in 2018 or 2019 at a forum said, ‘Look, if there is a nomination in the final year after the primary starts in 2020 for Donald Trump, I will not bring it up before my committee,’” Wallace proclaimed. “He even said mark the tape and hold me to account on that, so he has flipped entirely.”
“Here’s, I guess, my point,” he concluded. “It’s all politics!”