Trump: Fast Ginsburg Replacement 09/20 12:14
President Donald Trump is promising to put forth a female nominee in the
coming week to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, pushing the Republican-controlled Senate to consider the
pick without delay.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is promising to put forth a female
nominee in the coming week to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the
death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, pushing the Republican-controlled Senate
to consider the pick without delay.
Taking the stage Saturday night at a North Carolina rally to chants of "Fill
that seat," the president said he would nominate his selection despite
Democrats' objections. And, after conducting what he joked was a "very
scientific poll" of the Fayetteville crowd as to whether supporters wanted a
man or a woman, he declared the choice would be "a very talented, very
He added that he did not yet know whom he would choose.
"We win an election and those are the consequences," said the president, who
then seemed to signal that he'd be willing to accept a vote on his nominee
during the lame-duck period after the election. "We have a lot of time. We have
plenty of time. We're talking about January 20th."
But one Republican senator had already broken ranks. Maine's Susan Collins,
who is in a tough reelection battle, said earlier Saturday that she believed
replacing Ginsburg should be the decision of the president who is elected Nov.
3. Three more defections from the GOP ranks would be needed to stop Trump's
nominee from joining the court.
At stake is a seat held by a justice who was a champion of women's rights
and spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the
court's liberal wing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. vowed to
call a vote for Trump's nominee, but Democrats countered that Republicans
should follow the precedent that GOP legislators set in 2016 by refusing to
consider a Supreme Court choice in the run-up to an election.
The impending clash over the vacant seat --- when to fill it and with whom
--- scrambles the stretch run of a presidential race for a nation already
reeling from the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions
unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.
McConnell pledged to Trump in a phone call Friday night to bring the choice
to a vote though he has not said if it would be before the election.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any selection should come
after Nov. 3. "Voters should pick the president and the president should pick
the justice to consider," he said. Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman
to the high court if given the chance, but he has said he will not release
names of possible nominees before the election.
Trump this month added 20 more names to his roster of potential court
nominees, and aides in recent days have focused on a short list heavy on female
candidates, according to four White House aides and officials close to the
process. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized
to publicly discuss private conversations.
Those under close consideration for the high court include three women who
are federal appeals court judges: Amy Coney Barrett, beloved among
conservatives and an early favorite; Barbara Lagoa, who is Hispanic and comes
from the battleground state of Florida; and Allison Jones Rushing, who clerked
for Justice Clarence Thomas and for Neil Gorsuch, when the current
Trump-appointed justice was an appeals court judge.
At least one man, appeals court Judge Amul Thapar, has also been under
consideration. A McConnell ally from Kentucky, he has been screened by Trump's
team for past openings and he would be the first Asian American on the high
McConnell, who sets the calendar in the Senate and has made judicial
appointments his priority, declared unequivocally in a statement that Trump's
nominee would receive a confirmation vote. In 2016, McConnell refused to
consider President Barack Obama's nominee months before the election,
eventually preventing a vote on Judge Merrick Garland.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York convened a conference
call with Democratic senators at midday Saturday, according to a person on the
private call who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on
condition of anonymity. He told senators the "No. 1 goal" must be to
communicate the stakes of the confirmation vote.
Schumer also warned that if Republicans push through the nominee, "nothing
is off the table" for Senate rules changes to come, the person said.
Ginsburg's death seemed certain to stoke enthusiasm in both political
parties as the election could now be viewed as referendum on the high court's
decisions, including the future of abortion rights. Democrats raised more than
$71 million in the hours after Ginsburg's death, indicating her passing has
already galvanized the party's base.
Hundreds of mourners gathered for a second night outside the Supreme Court
building, holding candles in honor of Ginsburg and listening to a succession of
testimonies and rallying speeches. Among the speakers was Sen. Elizabeth
Warren, D-Mass., who eulogized Ginsberg as "an icon, a trailblazer and a
friend" and accused McConnell of seeking to cynically hijack the confirmation
"Today Mitch McConnell and his henchmen think they can ram through a Supreme
Court justice only 45 days before the election," Warren said. "What Mitch
McConnell doesn't understand is that the fight has just begun."
A confirmation vote in the Senate is not guaranteed, even with a Republican
McConnell has launched a risky, unprecedented strategy. It could motivate
conservative voters to rally behind Trump and GOP senators or it could push
away moderates who prefer to see the Senate stick to norms or are fearful of a
right-leaning court stripping away women's right to choose an abortion.
Typically, it takes several months to vet and hold hearings on a Supreme
Court nominee, and time is short before November. Key senators may be reluctant
to cast votes so close to the election. With a slim GOP majority, 53 seats in
the 100-member chamber, Trump's choice could afford to lose only a few.
McConnell did not specify the timing. But trying for confirmation in a
lame-duck session after the Nov. 3 election, if Trump had lost to Biden or
Republicans had lost the Senate, would carry further political complications.
Democrats immediately denounced McConnell's move as hypocritical, pointing
out that he refused to call hearings for Garland 237 days before the 2016
election. The 2020 election is 46 days away.
The average number of days to confirm a justice, according to the
Congressional Research Service, is 69, which would be after the election. But
some Republicans quickly noted that Ginsburg was confirmed in just 42 days.
Obama waited more than a month to nominate Garland after Justice Antonin Scalia
died in February 2016.
John Fischetti, who waited in line more than two hours to enter Trump's
Fayetteville rally, said replacing Ginsburg would inflame tensions but was
within the president's rights.
"I would assume it would make everyone more energized," Fischetti said of
the political repercussions. "Trump's people want him to always press forward."
Four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be
broken by Vice President Mike Pence. After Collins' decision, focus grew on
Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, who have been critical
of Trump and protective of the institution of the Senate.
And because the Arizona Senate race is a special election, that seat could
be filled as early as Nov. 30 --- which would narrow the window for McConnell
if the Democratic candidate, Mark Kelly, wins.
The next pick could shape important decisions beyond abortion rights,
including any legal challenges that may stem from the 2020 election. In the
interim, if the court were to take cases with eight justices, 4-4 ties would
revert the decision to a lower court; for instance, the Affordable Care Act
could then be struck down by a lower Texas court.