U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that President Donald Trump’s next nominee to the Supreme Court will get a Senate vote, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
McConnell’s vow capped off a statement his office released just hours after Ginsburg’s death from pancreatic cancer. It’s due to immediately kick off a bitter political fight over replacing the pioneering justice less than two months before November’s presidential election, and four months before the end of Trump’s first term.
Multiple reports following her death also suggested Ginsburg addressed the issue during her final days. The reports say Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter, which said Ginsburg’s “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
McConnell did not say when that Senate vote will take place. But he said the Republican majority in the chamber, which has stood since 2014 and was expanded in the 2018 midterm elections, would continue to support Trump’s “outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary.”
He said the promise to vote on Ginsburg’s replacement was different than the showdown between Democrats and Republicans in 2016, when McConnell stalled a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland months before that year’s election.
Had he been confirmed by the Senate, Garland would have replaced conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died that February.
“Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” McConnell said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Trump and the Republican Party to wait until after Trump’s term ends in January before her replacement is selected.
A clip of Sen. Lindsey Graham speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic magazine in 2018, in which he promises to wait until “the next election” if a Supreme Court seat opens up during the last year of Trump’s term, quickly made the rounds on social media after Ginsburg’s death.
Trump has already named two judges to the court during his term — Justices Neil Gorsuch, who ultimately took Scalia’s seat, and Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy — creating a conservative majority.
Last week, Trump released a list of potential names he would choose from to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. The list also included a number of sitting lower court judges across the country, all of whom have conservative leanings.
Advocates have been nervously watching Ginsburg’s declining health since Trump’s election win in 2016. As a liberal justice, Ginsburg sided with the court’s other left-leaning judges to defend LGBTQ2 and abortion rights, which have received dissenting opinions from conservatives on the bench.
With Ginsburg gone — and with a new term set to begin on Oct. 5 — the court will no longer be evenly split between four liberals and four conservatives, with Chief Justice John Roberts often the deciding vote in closely contested decisions.
Although he was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, Roberts has recently sided with Ginsburg and the rest of the liberal wing in some recent decisions, including one favouring workplace rights for LGBTQ2 workers and others against state anti-abortion laws.
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