The news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday set fire to a swarm of seething arguments over whether President Donald Trump and a GOP-majority Senate could fill the vacant seat before Election Day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed shortly after Ginsburg’s death that he would press Trump’s nominee on the Supreme Court. That move that’s received backlash from Democrats since the Kentucky lawmaker blocked President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee during the last few months of Obama’s presidential term. Filling Ginsburg’s seat with a Republican would squash the partisan balance of the court.
“Americans re-elected 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,” McConnell said in a statement. “Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
McConnell has been labeled as a hypocrite since he blocked Merrick Garland, an appeals court judge, when Obama nominated him to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia after he passed away in February 2016, arguing that the nomination should wait until after voters decide the 2016 election.
Trump has already confirmed that he’ll make a selection within days and said at a campaign rally over the weekend that it “will be a woman.”
Democrats are outraged at McConnell and Trump’s push to swiftly replace Ginsburg’s seat ahead of the November 3rd election, as they can’t block a nomination without reaching across the aisle for help. In a GOP-controlled Senate—53 to 47—Democrats need four Republicans to vote in order to block a nominee, in the event of a tie where Vice President Mike Pence votes to break it.
Democrats have already been working to convince their Republican colleagues to not rush a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
“I’m going to be working this weekend, this week to reach across the aisle and see if I can persuade some friends to respect tradition, to respect the precedent they set in 2016 and to let the voters decide,” Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) told “Fox News Sunday.”
Coons added that a mistaken decision could “further divide our country” and “dishonor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.”
Democrats may rally some hope to block the nomination, as a few Senate Republicans have opposed replacing the vacant seat.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told an Alaska media outlet Friday—just before Ginsburg’s death was announced—that she “would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee,” since the election is so close. Murkowski also voted to block Trump’s former Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)—an incumbent lawmaker facing a competitive election as polls show her support tanking—said she thinks the candidate who lands a spot in the Oval Office after the election should have the power to decide who will fill Ginsburg’s seat.
“Panic is an unbecoming quality. People, mostly, don’t drown because they can’t swim, they drown because they panic. RBG was steady calm, steely and resolved. There is much panic on social media about the political consequences of Justice Ginsberg’s passing,” Steve Schmidt, former campaign staffer for President George W. Bush and a former member of the Republican Party tweeted. “Much of it supposes this is an advantageous event for Trump and Senate Republicans. I believe this is wrong. In fact, I believe this will be the final political nail in the coffin for Trump and the GOP majority.” Schmidt registered as an independent during Trump’s presidency.
The contentious debate comes after the Supreme Court announced Ginsburg died at the age of 87 from metastatic pancreatic cancer Friday night.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.