THE NEUTRAL ZONE
President Donald Trump announced his plan to put forward a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Friday. The President narrowed the list down to five women, with the top contenders for the nomination including Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa, Allison Jones Rushing, and Kate Todd.
Amy Coney Barrett is widely considered the leading contender for the position due to her favorability amongst constitutional conservatives. Barrett is a law school professor at Notre Dame and served as a law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Barrett implied that she would support voting to overturn past decisions if a particular justice found the decision to be unconstitutional, stating, “I tend to agree with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it.” Barrett’s potential nomination is considered a threat to the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, as she has a stern track record of voting against abortion rights. Barrett, a self-described devout Catholic, has argued her belief that life begins at conception.
Prominent Democrats are working on several possible methods to block this nomination before the election. Many Democrats, including former Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg, have floated the idea of expanding the court to 15 justices in an effort to depoliticize the bench. Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden is facing pressure from Democrats to pack the Supreme Court, despite his aversion to doing so, stating that packing the court would “lose any credibility” the institution currently possesses. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) tweeted his support for adding more justices, stating, “Filling the SCOTUS vacancy during a lame duck session, after the American people have voted for new leadership, is undemocratic and a clear violation of the public trust in elected officials. Congress would have to act and expanding the court would be the right place to start.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) stated her belief that both President Trump and Attorney General William Barr should be impeached, adding that both have been complicit in “an enormous amount of law-breaking.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) affirmed that impeachment was still on the table as an option to block the SCOTUS nominee, stating, “We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country.”
The United States Constitution does not state how many justices should serve on the Supreme Court, but Congress settled on nine justices in 1869, and that has remained the agreed-upon number of justices since that date. Many pro-abortion rights advocates are worried that a right-majority Supreme Court could overturn landmark cases, such as Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges.
In the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have reversed their original stances on the nomination of former President Barrack Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are among the many prominent lawmakers who have shifted positions in partisan fashion on the notion of a president appointing a Supreme Court Justice in their final year in office. Now that the GOP controls both the Senate and the Executive Branch, which it did not in 2016 during the Garland nomination process, the GOP is justifying this attempt to appoint a Justice before the election by citing the precedent of court stacking at the lower level set during the Obama administration, which the GOP expanded to the Supreme Court in 2017.
“Trump to Make Supreme Court Nomination Friday or Saturday” – Wall Street Journal / Source: U.S. Supreme Court Justices Database (Supreme Court justices), U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (U.S. gender breakdown)
Yan Wu/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
What we know about a possible Senate vote to replace Justice Ginsburg – Vox – 9/20/2020
As it so happens, a few GOP senators are on the record saying they would oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy this year. (The question has often been posed given McConnell’s refusal to hold a vote to replace Justice Antonin Scalia after he died in 2016, while Barack Obama was still president.) But, of course, those assurances were given when the question was hypothetical, and it’s far from clear whether these senators will stick to them in the face of what’s certain to be intense pressure from the right.
Biden Against Releasing SCOTUS List, Says It ‘Could Influence That Person’s Decision-Making’ – The Daily Wire – 9/21/2020
“First: putting a judge’s name on a list like that could influence that person’s decision-making as a judge, and that would be wrong, or at least create the perception [that] it would have influence,” said Biden in remarks Sunday. “Second: anyone put on a list like that, under these circumstances, would be subject to unrelenting political attacks. Because any nominee I would select would not get a hearing until 2021 at the earliest, she would endure those attacks for months on end without being able to defend herself.”
Supreme Court Confirmation by Nov. 3 Would Be Difficult But Not Unprecedented – Bloomberg – 9/21/2020
Trump said he planned to announce his nominee on Friday or Saturday, which would be less than 40 days until the Nov. 3 election. Only two times since 1975 has the chamber been able to confirm a Supreme Court pick in less time. The late John Paul Stevens’s confirmation in 1975 took just 19 days, while former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saw 33 days elapse from when she was nominated until a Senate vote in 1981. Ginsburg herself had the third-shortest wait in that time — 42 days.
Supreme Court vacancy brings new urgency to battle for Senate control. Here’s a look at the ratings – CNN – 9/21/2020
Republicans enter the election on November 3 holding a narrow three-seat majority in the Senate. Democrats need a net gain of four seats to win a majority in the Senate, but can take control by picking up three seats if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidency, since the vice president breaks ties in the chamber. Of the 35 Senate seats up for grabs in November, 23 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. For the 2020 cycle, CNN is featuring race ratings for Senate and House contests from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, who is a CNN contributor.