The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday cast an immediate spotlight on the vacancy on the high court, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to bring President Donald Trump’s nominee to a vote with just over six weeks before the election.
McConnell, in a statement released just over an hour after Ginsburg’s death was announced, declared unequivocally that Trump’s nominee would receive a vote, even though the Republican-controlled Senate did not give President Barack Obama’s pick a vote in the months ahead of the 2016 election.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden vigorously disagreed, declaring that “voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider.”
The death was poised to upend the presidential election, further stirring passions on a deeply divided nation as the campaign pushed into its stretch run.
Trump took the stage for a Minnesota rally a few minutes before Ginsburg’s death was announced. He spoke for more than 90 minutes, never mentioning it, apparently not alerted to the development.
But he did say that whomever was elected in November would have the ability to potentially fill several Supreme vacancies, declaring, “This is going to be the most important election in the history of our country and we have to get it right.”
Biden, returning to Delaware from his own campaign stop in Minnesota, praised Ginsburg upon his arrival.
She was “not only a giant of the legal profession but a beloved figure,” he said. She “stood for all of us.”
It must be up to the next president, whether himself or Trump, to choose a successor to be submitted for Senate confirmation, he said.
“This was the position that the Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were nearly nine months before the election,” he said. “That is the position the United States Senate must take now, when the election is less than two months away. We are talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. That institution should not be subject to politics.”
McConnell’s full statement:
“The Senate and the nation mourn the sudden passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life.Justice Ginsburg overcame one personal challenge and professional barrier after another. She climbed from a modest Brooklyn upbringing to a seat on our nation’s highest court and into the pages of American history. Justice Ginsburg was thoroughly dedicated to the legal profession and to her 27 years of service on the Supreme Court. Her intelligence and determination earned her respect and admiration throughout the legal world, and indeed throughout the entire nation, which now grieves alongside her family, friends, and colleagues.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.By contrast, Americans reelected 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. Once again, we will keep our promise.President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Biden’s full statement:
“Tonight our nation mourns an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She fought for all of us. As a young attorney, she persisted through every challenge that an unequal system placed in her way to change the laws of our land and lead the legal charge to advance equal rights for women. It was my honor to preside over her confirmation hearings, and to strongly support her accession to the Supreme Court. In the decades since, she was consistently and reliably the voice that pierced to the heart of every issue, protected the constitutional rights of every American, and never failed in the fierce and unflinching defense of liberty and freedom. Her opinions, and her dissents, will continue to shape the basis of our law for future generations. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise.
“Tonight, and in the coming days, we should be focused on the loss of Justice Ginsburg and her enduring legacy. But just so there is no doubt, let me be clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg. This was the position that the Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were nearly nine months before the election. That is the position the United States Senate must take now, when the election is less than two months away. We are talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. That institution should not be subject to politics.”