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Image: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the  Capitol
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021.Erin Scott / Reuters

On the Supreme Court, Ted Cruz pretends to forget his own record

"You didn't see Republicans, when we had control of the Senate, try to rig the game," Cruz claimed, referring to the Supreme Court. Actually, senator...


Realistically, the odds of Democrats approving major judicial reforms aren't great. A group of Democrats unveiled a bill this week to increase the size of the U.S. Supreme Court from 9 justices to 13, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters she has "no plans" to bring the proposal to the floor.

The measure also received a rather tepid response from other Democratic lawmakers. In the House, the bill now has just 12 co-sponsors, and in the Senate, a companion bill was introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), but it currently has zero co-sponsors.

Nevertheless, Republicans are pretending to be deeply concerned about the matter, leading Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) to hold a press conference in front of the Supreme Court this morning. Much of the rhetoric was boilerplate -- there were several references to a "power grab" -- but Cruz went a little further than his GOP colleagues with this line:

"You didn't see Republicans, when we had control of the Senate, try to rig the game. You didn't see us try to pack the court."

Well, a couple of things.

First, when there was a GOP majority in the Senate, Republicans didn't have much of a need to "rig the game," because the Supreme Court was already conservative. Remember, at no point in Ted Cruz's lifetime has a majority of the high court been appointed by Democratic presidents.

Second, and more importantly, if Cruz wants to reflect on Republicans' reluctance to "rig the game" at the Supreme Court in the recent past, that's a conversation I'm eager to have.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly on Feb. 13, 2016. Exactly one day later, the Texas senator appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" to insist that the Senate had "no obligation" whatsoever to consider any nominee to fill the Supreme Court's vacancy. In fact, Cruz endorsed an unprecedented partisan blockade, insisting that the high court have eight members for 11 months.

He and his party, in other words, were eager to "rig the game" in their favor.

As Election Day 2016 drew closer, and Cruz -- like nearly everyone else on Capitol Hill -- assumed that Donald Trump would lose, the Texas Republican went further and suggested he was prepared to leave Scalia's vacancy unfilled for another four years.

"There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices," Cruz said at the time. "I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job."

Cruz wasn't alone. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in the runup to Election Day, "If Hillary [Clinton] becomes president, I'm going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we're still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court." That came on the heels of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declaring on a radio show, "I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. I promise you."

Four years later, after the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing, Senate Republicans conveniently abandoned every principle they swore to value in 2016 and confirmed a new Supreme Court justice - eight days before Election Day 2020, as tens of millions of voters cast early ballots.

All of which brings us back to Cruz's insistence this morning: "You didn't see Republicans, when we had control of the Senate, try to rig the game."

Yeah, senator, we did.