Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will ensure that the Senate will vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace her, focusing attention on whether enough Republicans in the chamber could oppose the move to torpedo it.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” adding, “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” echoing word-for-word a statement McConnell issued after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, when he prevented a vote on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate and would only need a simple majority to confirm a nominee, but it’s not clear yet if the votes will be there.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Friday before Ginsburg’s death was announced that she would not vote to confirm a nominee before the election, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the New York Times earlier this month that she thought it would be too close to the election to hold a vote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which vets judicial nominees, said in 2018 that he would leave a Supreme Court seat open if a vacancy were to occur in Trump’s final year in office, but a statement he issued on Twitter on Friday marking Ginsburg’s passing made no mention of the issue.
Some Republicans told the New York Times that they were skeptical that McConnell could line up enough votes ahead of the election, and if Trump is defeated, they doubted that he would be able to push it through the lame duck session afterward, while others warned that if the Democrats win the White House and the Senate, they could exact revenge by expanding the court and packing it with Democrats.
Ginsburg made her own desire clear in the days before her death, dictating a statement to her granddaughter that read: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
President Trump announced 20 new additions to his list of potential Supreme Court nominees last week, including conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) who, shortly after the announcement tweeted, “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go,” referring to the landmark abortion ruling. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is considered a top contender. If Trump wins appointment of a nominee, it would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority that could stand for years to come.