Ginsburg’s death sparks political battle


Kyla Pelham

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the question of who should fill her vacancy remains.

Ben Schanzer, Assistant Sports Editor

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 has left yet another vacancy in the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, a pioneer for women’s rights, was an outspoken justice who persistently fought for the rights of American citizens, especially for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The selection of a new justice is just as much a political battle as it is one of merit. When the President has the opportunity to nominate a new court justice, they select someone who they feel will continue to hold their personal values for long after they leave office.

After the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold nomination hearings until after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, citing that one should not nominate to SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) in an election year. President Trump then nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch, who the Senate confirmed in April 2017.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement on Sept. 18.

This approach is drastically different than the one he took in 2016.

On Sept. 9, President Trump released a shortlist of 20 people he would consider if a SCOTUS seat were to open.

Because there will be a presidential election this year, and it is possible that President Trump will leave office in three months, it would be in the interest of President Trump, McConnell and the Republican Party to fill Ginsburg’s seat quickly. If this were to happen, there would be a six to three Republican majority in the Supreme Court.

A majority that large would not allow Chief Justice John Roberts to sway left as he has done in many important decisions over the last few years. It could also lead to major decisions like Roe v. Wade being overturned, in addition to a conservative reading of the Constitution becoming commonplace for what could be decades. 

According to Ginsburg’s granddaughter, Ginsburg said on her deathbed, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

It is unlikely that President Trump or McConnell will honor that request.

Senate Democrats are bound to try to slow or stop President Trump’s nominee from being confirmed, but there is little they can do, as confirming a justice only takes a simple majority, which Republicans hold in the Senate. 

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted on Sept. 18. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

A similar message has been echoed by a number of prominent Democrats including Presidential Candidate Joe Biden.

One option Senate Democrats have is to utilize the filibuster, though it would require the support of at least three Senate Republicans, as only a simple majority is needed to break a filibuster for SCOTUS nominations.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey feels that McConnell should stick to the precedent he set during the attempted Garland nomination, which lasted 293 days.

“Mitch McConnell set the precedent,” Markey tweeted on Sept. 18. “No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year.”

The Democrats must find four Republican Senators who agree that sentiment in order to prevent any of President Trump’s nominees from being confirmed. Based on past comments, there are some Senators who can possibly be flipped, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has said she would not confirm a nominee only 50-days prior to an election; Susan Collins of Maine, who said the decision should be made by the President who wins the election; and Mitt Romney, who was the only Republican Senator to vote in favor of convicting President Trump during the impeachment hearings.

An alternative is for Democrats to filibuster every bill passing through the Senate, as it takes a two-thirds majority to break a filibuster during normal voting. The goal of this method would be to push the nomination hearings back far enough for a new president to take office in Jan., or for the Democrats to win the Senate.

While this political saga plays out over the following months, America will see what President Trump and McConnell decide to do, and how Schumer will contest every advance.