Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. She was 87. Now, the Left is in total panic mode. Donald Trump is still president. The Senate is still controlled by Republicans. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a vote on a SCOTUS nominee should the president select one. This election cycle just got crazier. On the bright side, COVID, which dominated the news cycle all summer will vanish as if nothing happened. Just watch. There is nothing scarier than a solidly conservative Supreme Court majority in liberal media circles. We could be amid a pandemic from an alien virus, like The Andromeda Strain, and the media would still devote more attention to this issue than any pathogen.
You can disagree with the McConnell rule, which was previously known as the Biden rule, but you should describe it accurately. It's no confirmations in a presidential election year *when senate and presidency are held by different parties.* Doesn't apply this year.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 19, 2020
Liberals are now hoping Democrats threaten to pack the Court to offset what they see as the damage caused by some illegitimate jurists. They only feel that way because Trump won the 2016 election. It’s as simple as that; it’s pure derangement syndrome.
John Paul Stevens was confirmed in 19 days— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) September 19, 2020
So, can it be done? Well, the late Justice John Paul Stevens’ Supreme Court nomination lasted all of 19 days. Sandra Day O’Connor’s lasted 33 days. So, there is precedent, but a deep dive into our history goes even further to support the move for McConnell, Trump, and the GOP to fill this vacancy as soon as possible. Dan McLaughlin wrote more on this over at National Review in a very lengthy piece on the subject:
History supports Republicans filling the seat. Doing so would not be in any way inconsistent with Senate Republicans’ holding open the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. The reason is simple, and was explained by Mitch McConnell at the time. Historically, throughout American history, when their party controls the Senate, presidents get to fill Supreme Court vacancies at any time — even in a presidential election year, even in a lame-duck session after the election, even after defeat. Historically, when the opposite party controls the Senate, the Senate gets to block Supreme Court nominees sent up in a presidential election year, and hold the seat open for the winner. Both of those precedents are settled by experience as old as the republic. Republicans should not create a brand-new precedent to deviate from them.
Twenty-nine times in American history there has been an open Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential election year, or in a lame-duck session before the next presidential inauguration. (This counts vacancies created by new seats on the Court, but not vacancies for which there was a nomination already pending when the year began, such as happened in 1835–36 and 1987–88.) The president made a nomination in all twenty-nine cases. George Washington did it three times. John Adams did it. Thomas Jefferson did it. Abraham Lincoln did it. Ulysses S. Grant did it. Franklin D. Roosevelt did it. Dwight Eisenhower did it. Barack Obama, of course, did it. Twenty-two of the 44 men to hold the office faced this situation, and all twenty-two made the decision to send up a nomination, whether or not they had the votes in the Senate.
During the 1844 election, for example, there were two open seats on the Court. John Tyler made nine separate nominations of five different candidates, in one case sending up the same nominee three times. He sent up a pair of nominees in December, after the election. When those failed, he sent up another pair in February (presidential terms then ended in March). He had that power. Presidents have made Supreme Court nominations as late as literally the last day of their term.
At the same time, in terms of raw power, a majority of senators has the power to seat any nominee they want, and block any nominee they want. Historically, that power of the majority was limited by the filibuster, but a majority can change that rule, and has. Norms long limited the filibuster’s use in judicial nominations in the first place, and violation of those norms led to its abolition. No Supreme Court nominee was filibustered by a minority of Senators until 1968. Senate Democrats attempted filibusters of William Rehnquist twice, and launched the first formal filibuster of a new appointment to the Court on partisan lines against Samuel Alito in 2005. Joe Biden participated prominently in the Rehnquist and Alito filibusters. Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and joined by Biden, were the first to filibuster federal appellate nominees in 2003. After Republicans adopted the same tactic years later, Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster for appellate nominees in 2013. Republicans extended that elimination to Supreme Court nominees in 2017.
So, today, Donald Trump has the raw power to make a Supreme Court nomination all the way to the end of his term. Senate Republicans have the raw power to confirm one at least until a new Senate is seated on January 3, and — so long as there are at least 50 Republican senators on that date — until Trump leaves office. Whether they should use this power, however, is a matter of norms, and of politics.
In 2016, Barack Obama used his raw power to nominate Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia in March of the last year of Obama’s term, with the Trump–Clinton election underway. The Republican majority in the Senate used its raw power to refuse to seat that nominee. Having reached that decision, the Republican majority did not even hold a hearing for an outcome that was predetermined. In looking back at that exercise of Senate power in 2017, I concluded that it was supported by historical precedent…
There have been ten vacancies resulting in a presidential election-year or post-election nomination when the president and Senate were from opposite parties. In six of the ten cases, a nomination was made before Election Day. Only one of those, Chief Justice Melville Fuller’s nomination by Grover Cleveland in 1888, was confirmed before the election. Four nominations were made in lame-duck sessions after the election; three of those were left open for the winner of the election. Other than the unusual Fuller nomination (made when the Court was facing a crisis of backlogs in its docket), three of the other nine were filled after Election Day in ways that rewarded the winner of the presidential contest
Nineteen times between 1796 and 1968, presidents have sought to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential-election year while their party controlled the Senate. Ten of those nominations came before the election; nine of the ten were successful, the only failure being the bipartisan filibuster of the ethically challenged Abe Fortas as chief justice in 1968. Justices to enter the Court under these circumstances included such legal luminaries as Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo. George Washington made two nominations in 1796, one of them a chief justice replacing a failed nominee the prior year. It was his last year in office, and the Adams–Jefferson race to replace him was bitter and divisive. Woodrow Wilson made two nominations in 1916, one of them to replace Charles Evans Hughes, who had resigned from the Court to run for president against Wilson. Wilson was in a tight reelection campaign that was not decided until California finished counting votes a week after Election Day. Three of the presidents who got election-year nominees confirmed (Benjamin Harrison in 1892, William Howard Taft in 1912, and Herbert Hoover in 1932) were on their way to losing reelection, in Taft’s and Hoover’s cases by overwhelming margins. But they still had the Senate, so they got their nominees through.
Nine times, presidents have made nominations after the election in a lame-duck session.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also noted another reason for filling the vacancy. This election could be like the 2000 election and be litigated all the way up to the Supreme Court. You cannot have a 4-4 tie in these cases.
Ted Cruz with an excellent point. If election is litigated can't risk having just 8 justices and the possibility of a deadlocked court. Could cause a constitutional crisis.— Marc Thiessen (@marcthiessen) September 19, 2020
The Court must be at a full compliment should any election disputes such as Bush v Gore occur.— John Fund (@johnfund) September 19, 2020
Does McConnell have the votes? Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) decided to stab us in the back yet again on the Supreme Court front. No shocker. And we should expect other squishes, like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, to join her. If the bleeding stops there, Mitch can get to work, but as The Daily Beast's Sam Stein noted, the Kentucky senator may have the votes but there is ZERO room for error.
I sincerely don’t get why folks think Gardner, or McSally or Graham or anyone other than Collins would not immediately call for voting on Trumps nominee? You think these people want to completely lose all their conservative support right before the election?— Sam Stein (@samstein) September 19, 2020
There are three Senate GOP no’s it seems: Romney, Collins, Murkowski. That leaves McConnell no room for error. But, that might be enough.— Sam Stein (@samstein) September 19, 2020
That’s the gamble, but it’s one worth taking.