Let’s call this a preemptive warning to the GOP.
With the passing of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night, a political grenade was thrown into the middle of the current election season. We went from the economic recovery being the top issue to immediately seeing a repeat of 2016’s contentious debate over whether to seat a new justice or not before the election (or in the lame-duck, for that matter).
Unlike 2016 though, there is no split in the government. The Senate and the White House are held by the same party. The McConnell rule does not apply in this situation no matter how many times “journalists” pretend to not know what he originally said.
What this means is that a replacement must be nominated and that they must be confirmed. Yet, sentiments to the contrary on the right are already popping up. I’ve seen some commentators suggest the pain for the country would be too great and that we should wait. Some Senators, including Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, have also put out statements saying they will not support a vote before the election. I’ve also seen suggestions that Trump should purposely not nominate someone in order to make this an election issue, punting on the once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally re-shape the court.
To be frank, a Republican party that won’t fill Ginsburg’s seat now will die, and it will have deserved it.
This is not a time for faux decorum or bowing to left-wing threats. And to be sure, there have been plenty of threats levied since Ginsburg’s passing. This is also not the time for political calculations. Donald Trump is largely in office because he promised to fill an open Supreme Court seat. The Republican Senate was handed the majority largely on the backs of their promise to fill every judicial vacancy that came available. Now is the time to follow through, not waffle.
I don’t care if Lindsey Graham once said he wouldn’t hold a vote. These people do not represent themselves. They represent their voters. The surest way to ensure a total defeat of the GOP, from Congress to Trump, would be to play games with this seat and back down now.
There are also other reasons to get this done.
It would be a dereliction of duty if the Senate let us go into what is expected to be one of the most legally fraught elections ever with only 8 justices on the Supreme Court. The court MUST be at full strength.
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) September 19, 2020
This election is almost certainly going to end up in court over ballot issues. We’ve already had lower courts rule that ballots in certain states can be counted up to two weeks after election day. All of this is going to be challenged. Having a Supreme Court that could split would be a real constitutional crisis. It is the duty of the Senate to ensure this seat is filled and that doesn’t happen.
If Republicans back down from this moment, the GOP will have lost all reason for existing. Reports are that Trump is going to nominate a replacement in the next few days. He will have done his part. Mitch McConnell has pledged that there will be a vote, though his language left it ambiguous if he meant before the election or just before the end of the year. All eyes are now on Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, and others who have shown to be weak in the knees on this issue. They have a choice to make. They should choose wisely or there will be consequences.
(Please follow me on Twitter! @bonchieredstate)