Updated: Sep 21
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader
Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator of South Carolina, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is quoted as saying "If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term, and the primary process has started, we'll wait till the next election." And Graham has told us that we can use his words against him if he reverses his position. Let's hold him to it. Graham is now about to reverse himself in a rush to hold hearings on a Trump nominee to fill a vacancy on the court occasioned by the sad passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let's hope the voters of South Carolina hold him to his words and vote him out of office in November.
Ditto, Senate Republican from Kentucky, majority leader Mitch McConnell who in 2016 blocked a vote on then President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on the grounds that it was a presidential election year with some 6 months to go before the election and that the next President should be the one to nominate a Supreme Court judge.
Now McConnell says it's ok for Trump to nominate a replacement with less than two months before the 2020 election, and that he (McConnell) will schedule a vote forthwith.
All Supreme Court picks are important. But this one is especially so. Policies on equality for women and for their reproductive rights (Roe v Wade), health policy and health insurance (Affordable Care Act, alias Obamacare), Climate and the environment, gun safety, civil rights for all, immigration, voting rights, United States' asylum rules, regulatory rules, Presidential executive branch power versus Congress' legislative branch duties and oversight role, employee versus employer rights, rules favoring or disfavoring the growth and strength of unions, all these issues can be at stake and can depend on this Supreme Court pick.
With the sad death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg the ideological makeup of the court is about to swing unmistakably to the right with only two women still on the court, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, being liberal while the four of the five male justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh being conservative. The Chief Justice. John Roberts, tends conservative but has of late acted as a swing vote of sorts. But if Trump gets to name a conservative leaning supreme court justice to fill the Ginsburg vacancy it will be a conservative Supreme Court for years to come.
But there are roadblocks to this scenario. The Republicans have 53 votes in the Senate. Several of these Republican Senators are up for reelection and are vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy and power grabbing. Lindsey Graham is one of them. Susan Collins of Maine, has been quoted a saying she does "not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election." And Republican senators Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner and Charles Grassley have in the past said they would not support a court nominee close to an election.
So it is not a foregone conclusion that McConnell can get the 50 votes needed (the Vice President could break a tie) to get a Trump nominee confirmed. But the charge of hypocrisy is a weak reed to confront the greed for power. Republicans could even attempt the vote for a Trump nominee in December even if Trump were to lose the election in November. In that event Trump will still be president until inauguration day in January and some current Republican senators who may be defeated in November will also still be there until January. What are the consequences they will face if they just blatantly ram through a Supreme Court pick before they go home?
If the Republicans are successful at getting a Trump appointee confirmed there is an ultimate revenge Democrats have at their disposal should they win a majority in the Senate in November. That there are nine justices on the court is not set in stone nor in the constitution, and there have been periods in U.S. history when the Supreme Court was composed of fewer than nine and as many as ten. The number is presently set by the the Judiciary Act of 1869, a law passed by Congress and Congress can pass an amendment to this law to increase the number of justices to say 11, which would give a President Biden two picks to rebalance the court. This is a threat that Democrats should find worth holding over the Republican's heads.