Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Passes Away

Robert Brooks Contributor
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Passes Away
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This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on September 21, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Cover: Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Reaction to Ruth: This past Friday Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at her home in Washington due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87. Her death has already sparked a heated debate over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known, the AP’s Mark Sherman notes. “Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.” With just over six weeks to go until Election Day, here is what both sides are saying about what comes next:

On the Right: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, even though it’s an election year. Then, President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will nominate a woman to fill Ginsburg spot. “I will be putting forth a nominee [this] week. It will be a woman,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men.” According to Andrea Shalal and Lawrence Hurley of Reuters, “Trump said it was his constitutional right to appoint a successor for Ginsburg, and he would do so, citing similar moves by presidents dating back to George Washington.” Referring to the date of the next inauguration, Trump said, “We have plenty of time. You’re talking about Jan. 20.” Most right-leaning outlets highlighted pieces that support filling Ginsberg’s seat as soon as possible. We’ve included a round-up below, however, this opinion piece for Fox News written by Sen. Ted Cruz sums up what will likely be the talking points until Trump makes his decision. Cruz says the first reason “Trump must nominate a successor [this] week and why the Senate must confirm that successor before Election Day” is because “this nomination is why the American people elected Donald Trump as president and this confirmation is why the American people voted for a Republican majority in the US Senate.” Secondly, Cruz points out that, “twenty-nine times in our nation’s history we’ve seen a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year or before an inauguration and in every instance, the president proceeded with a nomination.” And finally, Cruz writes, “as we approach what is likely to be a contested election that hangs in the balance of the Supreme Court, our nation is at risk of a constitutional crisis without nine justices on the bench.” Here is a headline analysis of other viewpoints from the right:

On the Left: One day after Ginsberg’s passing, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Democrats on a Saturday conference call that “if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year.” Then, on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not rule out impeaching President Donald Trump or Attorney General William Barr if the Senate tries to push through a Supreme Court nomination during a lame-duck session if Joe Biden wins the November election. “We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country. This president has threatened to not even accept the results of the election,” Pelosi said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” For Joe Biden’s part, the Democratic nominee said yesterday that the Senate should honor Ginsburg’s dying wish and not vote on a nominee before the election. As Axios’ Mike Allen put it in his newsletter yesterday, “Furious Democrats are considering total war — profound changes to two branches of government, and even adding stars to the flag — if Republicans jam through a Supreme Court nominee, then lose control of the Senate.” Andrea Shalal and Lawrence Hurley of Reuters note that, “Democrats are still seething over the Republican Senate’s refusal in 2016 to act on Democratic President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died 10 months before that election. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate should not act on a nominee during an election year, but he and other top Republican senators have reversed that stance.” Of the retaliatory changes some Democrats are considering the most contentious is adding more justices to the bench. Yesterday, “House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted, “If Sen. McConnell and @SenateGOP were to force through a nominee during the lame duck session—before a new Senate and President can take office—then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the Supreme Court.” Left-leaning outlets have also proposed eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end filibusters and making both D.C. and Puerto Rico states. Here is a headline analysis of other viewpoints from the left:

Flag This: Even if Democrats win the White House and a Senate majority in the November election, President Trump and Mitch McConnell might be able to push through their choice before the new president and Congress are sworn in on Jan. 20. Yesterday most Senate Republicans started to get behind Trump and McConnell’s plans to move forward with a nominee, likely as early as this week. The most important Senators to watch are Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who said the Senate Judiciary Committee should start the process of vetting Trump’s pick, but “given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election.” Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman report for POLITICO that “Sen. Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska has also said the vote should take place after the election. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has not yet weighed in. Even if all three hold fast against proceeding before the election, it’s unclear who would be the fourth vote Democrats would need to block the nomination from moving forward.” Three top names in the running to fill the seat are Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, Barbara Lagoa of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, and Allison Jones Rushing, a judge on the Richmond-based 4th Circuit. Ultimately the initial nomination comes down to Trump, therefore it’s important to take a look at what he’s said about each candidate. In regards to Barrett, Trump told reporters Saturday before departing the White House for a Fayetteville, N.C., rally “She’s very highly respected. I can say that.” The Hill notes that “Barrett is viewed as a favorite among conservatives and was included on the short-list to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy when Trump ultimately selected then-D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” Axios also reported in 2019 that Trump told aides he was “saving” Barrett as a potential replacement for Ginsburg. As for Lagoa, Trump told reporters Saturday, “She’s an extraordinary person. I’ve heard incredible things about her. I don’t know her. She’s Hispanic and highly respected.” Lastly, in regards to Rushing, she previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as Gorsuch when he served on the 10th Circuit. Although some may have disagreed with Ginsberg’s constitutional ideology and political leanings, she was widely respected by both sides of the aisle. President Trump, for example, reacted with visible surprise when reporters informed him she had died. “She led an amazing life,” Trump said. “What else can you say? She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually saddened to hear that.”