Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death at 87 sets in motion a monumental political fight in the final weeks before the elections – amid her dying wish that President Donald Trump not nominate her successor.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left no doubt Friday night that Trump would act – but did not say when. ‘President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,’ McConnell said.
News of Ginsburg’s death broke Friday night while Trump, who she has sparred with publicly and ruled against repeatedly, was in the midst of a typical campaign rally where he blasted immigration from Somalia, attacked Joe Biden, and heralded the National Guard imposing order on Minneapolis.
As tributes for Ginsburg, a stalwart member of the court’s left wing, rolled in, it soon became evident she had not held back views of what the future might hold for her seat, dictatating a message to her granddaughter Clara Spera in her dying days.
‘My most fervent wish is that I I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.,’ she said.
‘My most fervent wish is that I I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,’ said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a statement dictated days before her death
Democrats are still steaming over how McConnell killed the Merrick Garland nomination
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer quoted Mitch McConnell word-for-word from 2016
It is a wish that Ginsburg and other liberals can’t control. The key decision maker is McConnell, who held up President Barack Obama’s high court nominee for nearly a year before the 2016 election.
Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, never got a hearing after Obama nominated him following the death of Judge Antonin Scalia. It is Trump who filled the seat.
Republicans have changed the rules on filibusters for Supreme Court Justices, and McConnell has changed his line with his own party in control of the White House. ‘Oh, we’d fill it,’ he said when asked about the hypothetical.
McConnell’s Friday statement referenced the GOP keeping its majority, which was 52-48 heading into 2018, a number they increased by one, with a slate of Democrats running in tough territory.
Democrats are still steaming over how McConnell killed the Merrick Garland nomination
President Trump has already put two justices on the Supreme Court
‘In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,’ he said.
‘By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,’ he said.
Republicans, who hold a 53-vote majority in the Senate can try to schedule a hearing on a nominee and push through a vote before the elections, or during a ‘lame duck’ session immediately afterward. The vacancy is certain to put the squeeze on some Senate Republicans in tight races, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Other Senate Republicans in tight races include Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Martha McSally in Arizona, and Cory Gardner in Colorado. All have been down in the polls.
The president has already appointed two members of the Supreme Court, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, in moves that pushes the court increasingly to the right and maintained its 5-4 conservative majority.
After suffering a handful of high-profile defeats this summer, Trump has complained about Chief Justice John Roberts. He has spoken about the importance of court in the upcoming elections, and recently released a list of conservative nominees he says he will draw from.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows issued a statement mourning the loss of Ginsburg, without delving into the high-stakes tactics ahead.
‘Joining the whole nation tonight in mourning the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—a trailblazer, a dedicated public servant, and an inspiration to so many. My prayers are with her family and friends,’ he said.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, was a reliable vote for the left wing of the court
President Donald Trump has already installed two justices on the high court
Trump talked up Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as a potential nominee presumably before he knew of Ginsburg’s death
He sometimes says the next president could appoint one, two, three or even four justices to the court.
The vacancy is certain to add even more urgency to the already hard-fought election.
Republicans credit the political heat over the Scalia seat with helping drive turnout and enthusiasm among base supporters who gave Donald Trump an edge.
President Trump spoke about his court nominees minutes after the news of Ginsburg’s death.
‘We have about 45 unbelievable people.,’ he said. The
Conservative they believe in the Constitution, okay,’ he said.
‘I have to have somebody that we can make sure we get approved,’ Trump said. Then he spoke about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was on the list Trump released.
‘The only one I can think of is Ted, because he’s going to get 50 Republican votes and 50 Democrat votes, they’ll do anything to get him out of the Senate,’ he said.
‘The next president will get one, two, three or four Supreme Court justices. I had two,’ Trump said in a 90-minute monologue while the political world went into overdrive with news of Ginsburg’s death.
A member of the crowd – with the information buzzing around the internet – shouted out ‘Ginsburg is dead!’
The president continued without mention. ‘The next one will have anywhere from one to four,’ he said.
It wasn’t until moments before he boarded Air Force One that the president commented on the bombshell, with a statement that included the hard-to-believe notion that no one had broken the news to him after concluding his remarks.
‘She just died? Wow. I didn’t know that,’ said Trump.’You’re telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life, what else can you say?”
‘Whether you agree or not who was an amazing woman who led an amazing life,’ said Trump. ‘I’m actually said to hear that. I am saddened to hear that,’ he said.
Many Democrats have never forgiven McConnell, who has a reputation as an institutionalist, for killing the Garland nomination.
‘The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,’ McConnell said explaining the hold-up, in a comment former Obama communications director Dan Pfieffer tweeted Friday night.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer tweeted his own statement Friday night that quoted McConnell word-for-word but did not mention his name. ‘The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,’ said Schumer.
A range of senators may be faced with having to explain past comments from related situations. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist who nevertheless has previously backed some Democratic Supreme Court picks, was direct defending the delay of the Garland nomination. He said in 2018 he would apply the same principle under Trump.
‘If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election,’ Graham said.
Graham, the Senate Judiciary chairman, is up for reelection in a Republican-leaning state, but a recent poll had him tied against Democrat Jamie Harrison. McConnell is also up for reelection in conservative Kentucky.
Former Watergate figure John Dean, a strong Trump critic, called for Democrats to immediately turn to pressure tactics to avoid getting steamrolled. Under parliamentary changes Republicans pushed through, the minority can’t filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. (Democrats pushed through a similar change for lower court nominations).
‘[email protected] must announce that if the GOP rushes to pack the Court, the Dems will expand the SCOTUS to 11 justices, and expand the lower federal courts by 70 to 100 new judgeships, which have long been needed. In short, he will depoliticize the federal judiciary!’ Dean wrote.
GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told Alaska Public Media hours before Ginsburg’s death that she wouldn’t vote to confirm a Supreme Court Justice until after Election Day.
Cruz told Fox News Friday night: ‘I believe that the president should next week nominate a successor to the court, and I think it is critical that the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day.’
WHO’S WHO ON TRUMP’S SUPREME COURT SHORTLIST
Ted Cruz, Texas. 49
Josh Hawley, Missouri. 40
Tom Cotton, Arkansas. 43
Bridget Bade, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 54
Stuart Kyle Duncan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 48
James Ho, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 47
Gregory Katsas, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 56
Barbara Lagoa, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 52
Carlos Muñiz, Supreme Court of Florida. 51
Martha Pacold, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 41
Peter Phipps, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 47
Sarah Pitlyk, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. 43
Allison Jones Rushing, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 38
Lawrence VanDyke, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 47
CURRENT AND FORMER REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS
Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General. 34
Paul Clement, partner with Kirkland & Ellis, former solicitor general. 54
Steven Engel, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. 46
Noel Francisco, former U.S. solicitor general. 51
Christopher Landau, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. 56
Kate Todd, deputy White House counsel. 45