Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87. Almost immediately, a fierce debate ensued over whether the vacancy on the high bench created by her death should be filled immediately by President Donald Trump or if it should be carried over until after the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ended the debate almost as soon as it began by confirming that he would hold a Senate vote on a Supreme Court nominee if President Trump submitted one.
Ginsburg reportedly requested from her death bed that she not be replaced by the current president, The Washington Times reported. Her plea has been echoed by most Democrats and liberal media punditry, all of whom insist that the vacancy be held open until after the elections are held and, presumably, a new president and new Senate are sworn-in and ready to consider a replacement.
“Trump’s nominee will receive a vote”
McConnell, however, made it clear in his statement on Ginsburg’s passing Friday night that he fully intended to hold a vote on a nominee from President Trump.
In a statement, McConnell praised Justice Ginsburg and her iconic status as a pioneer for women.
However, he noted at the conclusion of his statement that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
The Senate and the nation mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life.
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/NOwYLhDxIk
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) September 19, 2020
Controversy and clarification
Many Democrats and media pundits are crying foul, accusing McConnell of hypocrisy in light of how he refused to hold a vote on former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
Those critics have pointed to what McConnell had said at that time about how a nominee shouldn’t be considered in an election year and how the American people should get to decide who should be able to nominate and confirm a new justice to the Supreme Court.
That is only part of what McConnell had said, though, and leaves out the rather pertinent qualifier at the heart of his stance, namely that a vacancy should be carried over past an election if, and only if, the Senate and White House were held by opposition parties. That was the case in 2016 but is certainly not the case in 2020.
McConnell: “We kept our promise”
The Senate Leader explained as much in his statement, writing, “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.”
“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,” he added. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”