Supreme Justice Ginsburg, 87, died Friday of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, She was the second woman in US history to be elected after President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981.
After a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, President Trump was confronted with the breaking news and asked for comment. The President had the following to say: “Wow. I didn’t know that, You’re telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually saddened to hear that.”. Later, a formal statement was published on the Presidents twitter page:
Statement from the President on the Passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/N2YkGVWLoF
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
The presidents off the cuff response have received praise from conservatives and liberals alike. Many comments on youtube saying that the president’s remarks were gracious, heartfelt, and genuine. Vice president Mike Pence made the following announcement on his Twitter account:
Statement from the Vice President on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/5wsq5apOOZ
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) September 19, 2020
The Democrats were quick to push for an appointment to happen after the election. Chuck Schumer had the following to say: “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.”
Presidential hopeful Vice President Joe Biden has vowed to nominate a Black woman to the nation’s highest court system. In a statement, Biden also said that a new Justice should only be appointed after the election.
The Supreme Court Dilemma
To say the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has complicated things is an understatement. It seems like the US Supreme Court is once again at the forefront of the American political debate and it raises the question, what are the options, why is it an issue, and will we see a new Justice before the elections?
To begin looking for an answer we need to cover the basics. When a Supreme Court Justice dies or resigns, a new one is chosen from the reigning president’s list of candidates. It sounds simple but election years complicate things, in 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep. Due to a Republican majority in the Senate, President Obama was unable to appoint a new Justice and the task would be carried out by the new president, Donald Trump. President Trump quickly moved to appoint Justice Bret Kavanah, a dilemma that was the cause of much tension.
The options are simple: firstly, the Republicans carry out their plan, that should a similar situation arise in 2020, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not hold off till after the elections. The situation is different from 2016 in the following way, the Republican party holds the Office of the President and controls a majority in the senate allowing it total control to begin the procedure of deciding on a new Justice.
Secondly, the Republicans can hold off till after the election, potentially allowing the Democrats to choose the new Justice should they win the White House, or control the proceedings should they gain a majority in the Senate.
The problem is this: Given the Democrat outrage over the blocking of Obama’s nomination in 2016, things are now more partisan. The Democrats have no way of impeding McConnel in the nominations process. However, the Democrats could resort to all kinds of tricks to slow proceedings that already take a minimum of 3 months, even without interruptions.
It is unlikely that we will see a new Justice before the election unless the position is appointed when Congress is in recess, in that case, the hearing procedure will only take place after the elections, and the new Senate appointed.