In the wake of the recent revelation that elderly Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg successfully received treatment for her fourth battle with cancer over 20 years — the past two bouts occurring within a year of each other — there has been increased chatter about the coming day when she’ll no longer be able to serve and the undoubtedly heated partisan fight that will erupt over who will eventually fill her vacant seat.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in May that he would have no qualms about holding hearings and a confirmation vote on any nominee from President Trump for a potential Supreme Court vacancy in 2020, and he just doubled down on that position — even if Democrats “whine” about it.”
“Partners in the personnel business”
The Washington Examiner reported that McConnell’s comments about filling a hypothetical court vacancy in 2020 came during a discussion with conservative commentator and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.
The controversy over McConnell’s remarks stems from the still-hurt feelings of many Democrats over McConnell’s refusal to hold hearings or a vote on Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Of why he chose to block Garland’s nomination, McConnell told Hewitt, “You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time, back to 1880s to find the last time a Senate of a different party from the president filled a Supreme Court vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election. That was entirely the precedent.”
“There was nothing I did that was, would not have been done had the shoe been on the other foot,” McConnell said, alluding to the near-certainty that, were roles reversed and Democrats controlled the Senate while a Republican president was in office, the exact same thing would have occurred.
“So look, they can whine about this all day long,” he continued with regard to his Democratic colleagues, who will assuredly protest if a court vacancy is filled by McConnell and Trump in 2020.
“But under the Constitution, there is co-responsibility for appointments. The president makes the nomination, and the Senate confirms. We are partners in the personnel business up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Republican leader added.
As noted, McConnell previously stated his commitment to filling any court vacancies with conservative-leaning originalist jurists whenever he has the opportunity to do so, even if during an election year.
McConnell explained then that the sole reason he scuttled consideration of Garland’s nomination was the fact that the Senate and White House were controlled by opposing parties in an election year, a situation that would not be replicated if a vacancy were to occur in 2020.
To be sure, Justice Ginsburg has given no indication that she intends to retire and step down from the high court. Indeed, she has made it abundantly clear — though not in so many words — that she hopes to outlast Trump’s presidency and be replaced by a Democrat president who would nominate a fellow liberal jurist to the court in her place.
That said, Ginsburg’s plans to keep holding on notwithstanding, a vacancy on the court could nevertheless arise in the coming election year, and McConnell has let it be known that such a vacancy will be quickly filled while Republicans still have the chance to do so, no matter how vocal the outrage from his leftist comrades across the political aisle.