Sept. 18, the nation suffered a tragic loss. United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 from pancreatic cancer.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to Justice Ginsburg’s family and loved ones. The fierce judge decided on a wide range of cases that have had far-reaching influences on American society. Before her death, she said “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Unfortunately, President Donald J. Trump, refuses to honor her wish. Trump, with support from the GOP, instead nominated Amy Coney Barrett — a hardline conservative federal appeals court judge — as the new Supreme Court of the United States nominee on Saturday, Sept. 26.
The death of RBG quickly became a party politics battleground. But, is it even feasible to confirm a Supreme Court associate justice when there is only a month until the Nov. 3 presidential election?
Constitutionally speaking, yes. Article II Section 2 of the Constitution asserts that “[the president] … by and with the advice and consent of the Senate … shall appoint Judges of the Supreme Court.” The Constitution grants the president the power to nominate supreme court judges at any given time, but the Senate needs a two-thirds majority to confirm the nomination.
But in reality, confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice after the nomination is unlikely to be completed within a month before the presidential election. Historically and statistically speaking, looking back from Ford to the Trump Administration — including the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh — the confirmation process takes an average of 67 days to complete. This puts the GOP at a ticking clock if they want to get it done.
Firstly, the Republican party should have waited to nominate a new judge after the election. If there is a party realignment after Nov. 3, if the Democrats control the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House and if the confirmation of Barrett comes through, the Democrats can impeach her, and possibly other Trump-era judges, and pack the Supreme Court with liberal judges.
Secondly, Republicans should have honored RBG’s wishes. Honoring someone’s final wish pays respect to that person and that person’s legacies.
The fact that Trump, with support from other GOP leaders including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, dishonored Ginsburg’s final wish only means one thing — they do not have any basic human decency and they do not care about voters but only about advancing party interests in the judicial branch, because if the confirmation goes through, this will give the Republicans a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court.
This is one of the reasons why voters should be concerned about this speedy nomination.
Another thing the voters should pay attention to is the inconsistency of Republican politicians.
In 2016, following Justice Scalia’s death, President Barack Obama nominated Justice Merrick Garland but was blocked by the Republican-led Senate, with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., supporting the blocking. Now, Johnson supports the speedy nomination by Trump.
This is an inconsistency with the Thurmond Rule, an unwritten rule holding a judicial nominee should not be elected within a few months before an election. The only reason that can explain this inconsistency is party interests, not furthering voter interests.
If voter interests align with Republican party interests, then the politician would advocate for both. Once voter interests differ from party interests, Republican politicians favor party interests over their constituents.
This is an abuse of democracy and an abuse of incumbency. Politicians as such should be voted out of the office because they don’t represent their voters, but themselves and their party only.
The voters should also understand what issues are at stake here. Foremost is abortion, without a liberal judge like Ginsburg, pro-life beliefs could become law and force many abortion clinics to close. The historical landmark decision of “Roe v. Wade” could be reversed in future case decisions with a clear Republican majority on the bench.
Second, the Affordable Care Act will be challenged again, and this time, it may not survive.
This act allows millions of Americans to have affordable health insurance or healthcare plans, improving the public health system. This is also a fulfillment of the Fourteenth Amendment under the Equal Protection Clause. A Republican majority could reverse this beneficial plan.
Last but not least, there is a concern that DACA may be eliminated.
June 18, the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s request of eliminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals because of procedural problems.
If the confirmation comes through before the election, it is highly likely that the Trump Administration will challenge DACA again in the Supreme Court and — with a Republican majority — the program, as well 6,600 DACA recipients in Wisconsin and 700,000 in the US, will be endangered.
A more important question to ask now is that when elected representatives or officials no longer represent constituents and their voices, where would democracy be?
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.