Fact Check: No, Kamala, Abe Lincoln Did Not Refuse To Nominate a Supreme Court Justice in an Election Year


Sen. Kamala Harris of California attempted to rewrite history with regard to President Abraham Lincoln during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City.

Harris put on a dreadful debate performance, as she was thrown off balance numerous times by Vice President Mike Pence, who held Harris accountable for the plans she and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have for the country and the judiciary, should voters choose them next month.

The debate’s moderator, Susan Page, is the Washington bureau chief for USA Today and the author of a biography about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which is set for release next year.

Despite the evident conflicts of interest for the D.C. reporter and author, the supposedly nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates tapped her to moderate the event.

As expected, Pence found himself answering loaded questions and being interrupted by Page with more frequency and enthusiasm than Harris did.

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Page arguably did a much better job than Fox News host Chris Wallace did while moderating last week’s first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Biden, but that’s not saying much.

Page threw Harris softballs, so it fell to Pence to press for an answer to a question the California Democrat and Biden have dodged for weeks.

“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” Pence pressed Harris.

Added the VP, “Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way.”

Harris refused to answer the court-packing question, and instead attempted to invoke some history of her own.

The only problem was her history was revised to fit the narrative she’d like voters to buy.

Harris tried to make an argument that in October of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln would not choose a nominee for Chief Justice Roger Taney because, with a national election approaching in the midst of the Civil War, “Honest Abe said, ‘It’s not the right thing to do.’”

“The American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States, and then that person can select who will serve for a lifetime on the highest court of our land,” Harris said.

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But as Dan McLaughlin pointed out at National Review on Wednesday night, that’s not how it happened at all.

Lincoln did not send a nominee to the Senate in October of 1864, that much is true.

That’s because the Senate was out of session until December of that election year, so Lincoln was forced to wait to nominate a successor for Taney.

Salmon P. Chase was nominated to replace Taney on Dec. 6, 1864, and was confirmed by the Senate nine days later on Dec. 15, 1864, according to the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Chase would serve as chief justice until his death in 1873.

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So it was not that Lincoln refused to nominate a Supreme Court justice, McLauglin wrote. The Senate’s schedule, and practical politics in the midst of the carnage of the Civil War, dictated Lincoln’s action.

“Lincoln wanted to dangle the nomination before Chase and several other potential candidates because he wanted them to campaign for him,” McLaughlin wrote. “Lincoln’s priority was winning the election, which was necessary to win the war — and he filled the vacancy at the first possible instant.”

Harris left out all of that pertinent information when dodging the question from Pence.

Of course, the candidate never did give Pence, or voters, an answer Wednesday about packing the court — making good on a Democratic threat to expand the number of justices to give a Biden administration the chance to appoint liberal members to the high court.

Pence, who also ripped Harris and Democrats for their abuse of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings in 2018, summed up the situation for Americans frankly.

“If you haven’t figured it out yet… the straight answer is they’re going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election,” he said.

Concluded Pence, “If you cherish our Supreme Court, if you cherish the separation of powers, you need to reject the Biden-Harris ticket.”

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.