In the wake of the tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there has been growing controversy regarding the vacant seat on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The Trump Administration sparked conversation about Ginsburg’s replacement the day after she died. There is obvious unrest with the idea of Trump appointing a new justice because we are currently a mere five weeks out from the election, and his appointment would make the SCOTUS 6-3 conservative to liberal. Republican leaders and lawmakers are dead set on getting someone approved in the next few weeks. However, legislators like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, who have advocated for a SCOTUS appointment before the election, are going against their own words from years past.
In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving an empty SCOTUS seat the February before the 2016 Election. On the Senate floor, Lindsey Graham blocked then President Obama’s SCOTUS nomination, and Merrick Garland claimed that it was too close to the election, and this choice should be left to the next president. Graham went on to say, “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,” according to The New York Daily News. Again in 2018, Newsweek reported that Graham again came out to say that if there is a vacancy after the commencement of the Presidential Primaries, the approval and nomination process should not begin until the election is over.
Now, in the days following Ginsburg’s death, Graham has come out to say the Senate should “proceed expeditiously” to replace Ginsburg. In a statement to Democrats in the house, Graham stated that due to party biases, this process would be inherently different for Republicans than for Democrats, and therefore advised that the process of appointment and approval should happen as soon as possible.
Graham’s buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is also receiving criticism this week for taking a similar stance, contradicting his own opinion from past years. In 2016, McConnell was also opposed to Obama appointing a new justice to the SCOTUS because, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
McConnell has spoken numerous times this week about the SCOTUS vacancy, and his message is clear: he made a vow to fulfill President Trump’s agenda, which includes continuing the nomination process with the timeline as is.
This goes to show that for these legislators, the rules should only be applied and adjusted when it benefits their party. If parties were reversed in this situation, I have no doubt that Graham and McConnell would be using every tool they had to prevent a nomination from happening. The rules are the rules though, and it is completely within the power of the Senate to fill the vacancy upon receiving a nomination from President Trump, regardless of the fast-approaching election.
For a SCOTUS nominee to be approved, he or she needs confirmation from the Senate by a simple majority, which is 51 votes in favor. Currently the Senate rests at 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats, and in the upcoming election, there are 35 seats up for grabs. Thus, the affiliations and positions of the senators and president are crucial.
It is important now more than ever that we hold our leaders accountable and make sure our voices are heard. According to The Atlantic, there are 17 million new voters since the 2016 election. It’s up to us to fight for the future of the country we want to see. The University has done a great job raising voter awareness and has many resources for registration and information.