Blunt Talks Supreme Court Vacancy, Draft Deferments During Campaign Kickoff

Feb 19, 2016

In launching his re-election campaign Friday, Senator Roy Blunt says the U.S. Senate should not appoint any nominee to the Supreme Court until after the next president is chosen.

It was among some of the positions he took in announcing his quest for a second term in the Senate and came as part of a 10-stop, two-day tour across Missouri. on Friday afternoon, he stopped at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield.

“At the end of the day the Senate should not confirm whoever this president nominates in the last few months of his presidency. This is a lifetime appointment, a lot’s happened since President Obama was elected the first time or the second time, and I think people have a right to be heard here and they’ll know that one of the things they’re voting about is who’s gonna be on the Supreme Court for maybe 25, or 30 years,” he said.

Blunt was critical of Obamacare, referencing multiple attempts by he and his Republican colleagues to repeal it, and citing reversal of the healthcare law as a priority if his party wins the presidency.

He touted his support of federally qualified health centers and efforts to pass the Excellence in Mental Health Care Act in 2014. The law sets quality standards for community mental health centers in participating states and more fully funds treatment for Medicaid patients. Missouri could be one of the first states in the nation to test the new program.

Blunt stuck to recent statements regarding his draft deferments during the Vietnam War. The issue became controversial after the Kansas City Star reported that Blunt's office last year did not mention the deferments when asked for a story.

“I’ve answered the question for – ever since frankly Bill Clinton started running for president. Always the same way, never with any problems,” Blunt said.

After Blunt’s office told the Star about the senator's low draft number but failed to mention the three draft deferments, critics began questioning the omission.

“There’s nothing shameful about taking a deferment,” said Jack Hembree, a veteran and member of the Greene County Democratic Central Committee. “It’s one of those issues about character to me. And that’s what most veterans that went to Vietnam – and I went to Vietnam, by the way – we’re concerned about the fact that he hid it.”

Hembree was among a small group of vets gathered near the site of Blunt’s campaign kickoff event in Springfield. Hembree also called into question Blunt’s voting record when it comes to veteran's benefits.  

During his speech Friday, Blunt mentioned the lifetime service award he was given earlier this month from the Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Before his election to the Senate, Blunt served in Congress representing southwest Missouri from 1997 to 2011.

The only other Republican in the race is Christopher Batsche. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.

In a statement Friday, Kander said, “We will not change Washington if we keep electing the same career politicians. Washington is broken and Senator Blunt has spent nearly 20 years in Congress climbing the political ladder and enriching his family by serving as the go-to vote for Washington lobbyists and special interests.”