Amid mourning for Ginsburg, fierce battle over U.S. Supreme Court looms
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[September 19, 2020]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fierce political
battle was shaping up on Saturday over the selection of a successor to
trailblazing liberal U.S. Supreme Curt Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with
top Democrats opposing any move by President Donald Trump to nominate
her replacement before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Ginsburg, the senior liberal justice, died on Friday night at age 87 of
complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer after 27 years on the
court. Her death gives Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3, a
chance to expand the court's conservative majority to 6-3 at a time of a
gaping political divide in America.
Even as large crowds of mourners gathered outside the Supreme Court
building well into the night to pay tribute to the iconic liberal
jurist, battle lines were forming. Supreme Court appointments require
Senate confirmation, and Trump's fellow Republicans control the chamber,
holding 53 seats of the 100 seats. Democrats lack the votes to block any
Trump nominee unless some Republican senators join them.
With the assistance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has
made confirmation of Trump's federal judicial nominees a top priority,
the president potentially could announce a nominee and move rapidly
through the confirmation process, which usually takes at least two
Even before Ginsburg's death, Trump had made public a list of potential
Trump's Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, on
Friday night said the winner of the election should be the one to make
the selection and that Trump should not move forward with a nominee.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, agreed.
McConnell pledged that the Senate would vote on any Trump nominee. If he
wins, Biden would be sworn in to replace Trump on Jan. 20. Trump focused
his initial remarks on praising Ginsburg, who he previously had derided,
without specifying his next steps.
For liberals who considered her a heroine, the grief they have expressed
over her death was tinged with fear over what happens next.
Conservative activists for years have sought to get enough votes on the
Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized
abortion nationwide. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to appoint
justices who would overturn that landmark decision. But the court in
July, even with its conservative majority, struck down a restrictive
Louisiana abortion law on a 5-4 vote.
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Candles are lit next an illustration of Associate Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg as people mourn her death at the Supreme Court in
Washington, U.S., September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The two justices who Trump already has appointed were Neil Gorsuch
in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Kavanaugh's confirmation
process was particularly heated, as he faced accusations by a
California university professor, Christine Blasey Ford, that he had
sexually assaulted her in 1982 when the two were high school
students in Maryland. Kavanaugh angrily denied those accusations and
was narrowly confirmed.
Republicans risk the possibility of liberals embracing more radical
proposals should Trump replace Ginsburg but Democrats win November's
election, with some activists on the left suggesting even before
Ginsburg's death that the number of justices on the court should be
expanded in order to counter Trump's appointees.
Confirmation votes could also put more pressure on incumbent
Republican senators in highly competitive election races, including
Maine's Susan Collins and Arizona's Martha McSally, at a time when
Democrats are eyeing a chance to win control of that chamber. Alaska
Senator Lisa Murkowski also could play a pivotal role.
Democrats are still seething over the Republican Senate's refusal to
act on Democratic President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee,
Merrick Garland, in 2016 after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia
died during that election year. McConnell in 2016 said the Senate
should not act on a court nominee during an election year, a stance
he has since reversed.
Many court-watchers expect Trump to attempt to replace Ginsburg with
a woman. One possible contender on Trump's list is Amy Coney
Barrett, a conservative judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals who was under consideration in 2018 before Trump
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott
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