The Debate Rages: When to Fill the Supreme Court Vacancy

On Friday, Sep. 18, the U.S. lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has been a part of numerous landmark rulings during her 27 years as a federal judge. Her death has opened up a new position on the Supreme Court bench, as well as a new debate: when should this seat be filled.

Republicans, including President Trump, plan to move quickly to have their nominee approved by next year. On the other hand, Democrats hope to put off the approval of a nominee in the hopes that they might take control of the Senate and White House after elections are over.

Ginsberg, aware of the debate that would follow her death, reportedly stated to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the days before her death that she wanted a replacement to be found after the elections.

My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.

Despite this wish, most Republicans want to move forward with nominating and approving a new justice. This contradicts what many of those same Republicans said in 2016 when Justice Scalia died. As a result, numerous politicians, namely Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, have drawn criticism from the public. Trump has even gone as far as to say that Ginsberg did not ever wish this, but that it was probably “written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi,” referring to Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

In 2016, McConnell advocated for waiting until after the election to fill the bench because voters had the right to influence the decision by voting for the next president. He has now gone back on that, arguing that while this year’s vacancy is much closer to the election, a decision should be made sooner because in 2016 the government was much more divided, whereas now Republicans control both the White House and the Senate.

Similarly, Graham stated, “I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, 'Let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” He defended the reversal of his initial stance on Twitter, arguing that 1) “Harry Reid [a Democrat senator] changed the rules to allow a simple majority vote for Circuit Court nominees dealing out the minority,” and 2) “Chuck Schumer and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open.” These two events, he said, have driven him to support President Trump in moving forward with replacing Justice Ginsberg. This defense, however, did not prove adequate to the dozens of protesters that arrived at his D.C. home in the morning of Sep. 21 to wake him up.

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