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Features & Columns

McConnell and Trump Work on Filling RBG's Seat in Supreme Court Before Election

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McConnell and Trump Work on Filling RBG's Seat in Supreme Court Before Election

2020-09-21 22:32:08

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Image source: Public domain)

While everyone knew it was coming, this is the worst or best timing, depending on which side of the aisle you fall on. The 87-year-old Supreme Court justice dubbed "The Notorious RBG" finally succumbed to her cancer after a long fierce battle.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish was that the next president of the United States choose her replacement. However, Donald Trump has already vowed to choose her replacement this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is working on securing the Republican votes needed to confirm Trump's choice. Democrats are doing everything they can to get four GOP votes to side with them — to hold off on replacing Ginsburg until after the next president is inaugurated.

This is something that surely has Trump salivating. When he held the 18 interviews with Bob Woodward, the same ones that turned up in the journalist's recently-released book, It seemed "kind of like he was cherishing it," according to Woodward, as he continually brought it up.

Last December Trump said he and McConnell "have broken every record" on judges, adding it was the senator's top priority.

"You know what Mitch's biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges," said Trump. Faced with a choice between putting 10 ambassadors through or a single judge, "he will absolutely ask me, 'Please, let's get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.' "

The next month Trump bragged that he had installed 187 judges to the federal branch. This means one in four circuit court judges are Trump appointees. He's put two in the Supreme Court. He bragged that his "percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous."

In May, Trump noted that former President Barack Obama had left him more than 100 court vacancies, with Trump referring to them as "golden nuggets." But this was because McConnell deliberately blocked Obama's nominees, not because he carelessly left the job undone.

After Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016, McConnell blocked Obama's nomination to replace Scalia, U.S. Appeals Circuit Judge Merrick Garland. He insisted that close to a presidential election, they should let the public choose. Once Trump took office, he filled the empty seat with Neil Gorsuch.

The next year he nominated another after the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed after a long, tough battle.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Biden's running mate, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was particularly tough on Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. Now she can do the same for Trump's next pick.

It was Biden, by the way, who sat as chairman of the Judiciary Committee when Ginsburg was confirmed.

This is leading to a true fight, as Democrats are remembering the majority leader's words four years ago, that in an election year, the people should decide who nominates the next justice. However, McConnell has promised to hold a vote on whomever Trump nominates to replace Ginsburg.

Some Republican senators have already weighed in. Democrats only need four of them to vote against Trump's nominee to effectively block them and hold the nomination for whoever wins the presidential race in November.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is retiring at the end of the year and won't have a say in the next justice if it's held off until the next president is in office. He said he'd support filling the seat this year but will make a decision once Trump announces the nominee.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) both support McConnell holding a vote. Neither of them is up for reelection this year. Only two Republican senators have said they oppose the nomination: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

"I did not support taking up a nomination before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply," said Murkowski.

Collins, who is facing reelection in November, said the appointment "should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd." However, she is notorious for going up against Trump, then folding. Murkowski voted against Kavanaugh. Collins said she may but didn't.

Biden accused Republicans who wold "jam this nomination through" of hypocrisy while looking trying to reason with other GOP senators to respect Ginsburg's final wishes, "not as a personal service to her but as a service to the country at a crossroads. 

"Please follow your conscience," the Democratic presidential nominee suggested. "Don't vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don't go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can't ignore the cherished system of checks and balances."

"If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh the nominee he chooses fairly," Biden said. "But if I win this election, President Trump's nominee should be withdrawn, and I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg's successor."

"To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power," he added/ "I don't believe the people of this nation will stand for it," as he believes "the American people should be heard." 

Biden discussed Ginsburg's friendships with conservative justices and said, "She did it without compromising her principles — or clouding her moral clarity — or losing her core principles," adding, "If she could do this, so can we."

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