President Donald Trump vowed on Saturday to appoint a woman to fill the vacancy on the U.S. supreme court caused by the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg late Friday – a move that could reshape the simmering debate over this controversial election eve appointment.
“I will put forward a nominee next week,” Trump said during an election rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “It will be a woman.”
“It will be a woman, a very talented, a very brilliant woman – who I haven’t chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list,” Trump continued.
Early speculation has centered around 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett – a New Orleans native who was on Trump’s shortlist for the court back in 2017 when he ended up choosing pro-liberty justice Neal Gorsuch (whose nomination we supported).
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A former clerk to the late Antonin Scalia, Barrett (above) currently serves on the U.S. seventh circuit court of appeals. She is regarded as an “originalist” (i.e. not an activist) who would interpret the Constitution and the law as they are written.
Fifty-two-year-old Barbara Lagoa of Miami – a member of the U.S. eleventh circuit court of appeals – is also reportedly under consideration. The first Hispanic woman appointed to the Florida supreme court, Lagoa’s nomination could boost Trump with Hispanic voters – who are less-than-enthralled with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump’s problem? In 2016, Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to hold hearings for Barack Obama’s final supreme court choice – Merrick Garland. Obama submitted Garland’s name after Scalia died in February of 2016.
Democrats are arguing (not without merit) that GOP senators are hypocrites for refusing to vote on one nomination while seeking to ram through another. However, GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell claims the precedent only applies when one party controls the Senate and another controls the White House. Republicans also argue that the court needs a full complement of nine judges in the event it is called upon to settle disputes arising from the election (remember, the 2000 U.S. presidential race was ultimately decided by the supreme court).
Two senators have already defected.
Liberal “Republican” U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said late last week that she would “not vote to confirm a supreme court nominee” prior to the 2020 election. On Saturday, another liberal GOP senator – Susan Collins of Maine – said she believed the winner of the fall election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or electing a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the supreme court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3,” Collins said in a statement.
Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate heading into the 2020 elections. That means they can only afford to lose three senators on any issue (U.S. vice president Mike Pence casts the deciding vote in the chamber in the event of a tie).
If Murkowski and Collins follow through and refuse to vote on Trump’s nominee, Democrats would need only two more GOP defections to block the nomination.
Further complicating GOP plans? One of the contested U.S. Senate races this fall (in Arizona) is a special election between Republican Martha McSally and former astronaut Mark Kelly. According to RealClearPolitics latest composite polling data, Kelly enjoys a 6.7 percent advantage over McSally.
If he wins, he could be sworn into office as soon as November 30, 2020 – meaning Democrats would need one less Republican to break ranks in order to successfully scuttle Trump’s choice.
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