Succeeding the Notorious R.B.G.
2020 will not let up on the assault. By now, most of you know that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer. Although I didn’t agree with her on much, I definitely respect her service and leadership.
Rest in Peace, Notorious R.B.G.
Data from the U.S. Senate shows that of all the times a Supreme Court Justice died or resigned in a presidential election year, the fastest someone was nominated and confirmed took was 116 days. In 1916, John Hessin Clarke replaced Charles Evans Hughes, who had resigned and would rejoin the court later as Chief Justice.
116 days is about three times as long as the current timeframe. Not only is the compressed schedule a factor, but multiple Republican lawmakers refused Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016 after Judge Scalia’s death, arguing that it was inappropriate to nominate someone in an election year. You can find their comments all over the place. I won’t repeat them here.
All the Republicans need is a simple majority to confirm a nominee. They currently hold 53 Senate seats, along with Vice President Mike Pence able to cast a tie-breaking vote, to the Democrats 45. Two Independents, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, caucus with the Dems.
Not so fast.
Maine’s other Senator, Susan Collins, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski have already indicated their opposition. Current Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation came down to those two, so it remains to be seen if they have a change of heart.
Utah’s Mitt Romney has clashed so many times with President Trump, and with rumors that he is being considered for Joe Biden’s Secretary of State, it’s not hard to see him also opposing it.
Politico reporter John Bresnahan lists several other Republican Senators who could oppose the nomination. Incumbent Cory Gardner from Colorado is struggling in his reelection bid, sometimes as much as ten points behind former Governor John Hickenlooper. Perhaps Mr. Gardner attempts to court moderate Democrats and Independents by opposing the nomination.
To me, the most credible source of Republican opposition is from the so-called “Institutionalists.” As the name suggests, they are interested in protecting the Senate as a long-term institution instead of playing short-term politics. Mr. Bresnahan mentions two retiring members: Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Kansas’s Pat Roberts.
Mr. Alexander has been known for a degree of bipartisanship in an age of well, none, being close to both Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He’s not particularly close to President Trump.
Mr. Roberts votes with President Trump 95.1% of the time and was appointed to the Congressional Economic Recovery Task Force earlier this year. He seems more likely to vote for the nomination, but not having to be reelected can be incredibly freeing.
It may seem like President Trump’s nominee is a slam dunk, but keep an eye on Senators Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Gardner, Alexander and Roberts.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that nothing is as simple as it seems.
These next 45 days just got even more interesting.
Stay sane, my friends.