Supreme Court scramble over Ginsburg’s empty seat

Aleasha Hintz– Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

A month ago on September 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died from complications with pancreatic cancer. Just eight days later, President Trump announced his nominee for the now-empty supreme court seat, creating a point of contention between parties in the senate. With accusations of hypocrisy from the left and cries of defense from the right, a frenzy of political posturing abounded. Ginsburg’s legacy, however, must not be overwritten by bipartisan noise.

Ginsburg was born in 1933, right at the tail end of the Great Depression. She found herself no stranger to hardships in her youth. As she grew up in a low-income neighborhood from Brooklyn, Ginsburg lost her mother to cancer the day before her high school graduation, and battled overt sexism during her time at law school. Even though she graduated top of her class at Cornell University, she struggled to find a job because of her womanhood. This came to an end, however, when Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993.

During her time on the court, Ginsburg proved herself a champion for gender equality and civil rights. She casted decisive votes for cases of the likes of King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges, which preserved the Affordable Care Act and legalized same-sex marriage. In cases where she found herself in the minority, Ginsburg gained notoriety for her clear and scathing dissent.

She had a habit of stating her opinion, sometimes to the point where her sharp tongue placed her in ethical trouble, namely her public denouncement of Trump. Even pertaining to her replacement, Ginsburg had something to say. And like her trademarked dissents, Ginsburg remained clear and insistent she wished for her replacement to be nominated by the next president. This dying wish, however, may not be fulfilled.

Just one day after her death, President Trump tweeted out he would be working to fill her seat, “without delay!” Eight days later on September 26, Trump announced his nominee for the supreme court, creating an uproar in the Senate.

The nominee in question is Amy Barrett, a conservative whose views differ from Ginsburg in every way. She contrasts the late justice on her stance on women’s reproductive rights, immigration, and the death penalty.

With the Republican party holding the majority in the Senate, they could confirm the nomination with ease. If a vote happens before the election, Barrett will all but likely be appointed. But a delay until after an election where Republicans stand to lose seats could turn the tables in favor of the Democrats.

Two basic views have arisen from the situation, and the presidential candidate Joe Biden and incumbent Donald Trump represent them well. Biden believes a hearing should wait until after the election, because results from the polls best show what the American people want. Across the aisle, Trump claims the right to capitalize on the four years allotted to him in the presidency.

The Democrats cry hypocrisy and flock behind Biden, and the Republicans deflect behind Trump. Both parties want their own say in the candidate, and both sides have a history of acting the sore loser.

In 2016, right before the last election, the opposite held true. President Obama had the same opportunity that Trump now seeks to capitalize on, and senators like Mitch McConnell had completely reversed their views.

Obama had nominated a candidate for the Supreme Court eleven months before the election, and McConnell claimed the hearings located themselves far too close to the election. Now, two months before the election, McConnel steams ahead in Barrett’s hearings, despite recent issues with COVID-19.

“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process.” McConnell wrote. This stands as a far cry from his 2016 opinion that the senate held no obligation to hold a hearing for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Dordt political science professor Jeff Taylor points out Trump and McConnell do not violate any constitutional law in nominating Barrett so close to the election. It is the senators like McConnell, who have changed their opinion based on opportunity, that are inciting conflict.

All of this points to a potentially bigger problem, Taylor notes. The motivation behind this scramble in Congress exists the fact that these nine supreme court justices control the law of the land. But this was not always the case. The responsibility of judicial review used to belong to the Senate, which meant lawmaking situated itself much closer to the people. Now,

“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process.” McConnell wrote. This stands as a far cry from his 2016 opinion that the senate held no obligation to hold a hearing for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Dordt political science professor Jeff Taylor points out Trump and McConnell do not violate any constitutional law in nominating Barrett so close to the election. It is the senators like McConnell, who have changed their opinion based on opportunity, that are inciting conflict.

All of this points to a potentially bigger problem, Taylor notes. The motivation behind this scramble in Congress exists the fact that these nine supreme court justices control the law of the land. But this was not always the case. The responsibility of judicial review used to belong to the Senate, which meant lawmaking situated itself much closer to the people. Now, nine individuals are entrusted to the lawmaking of the whole country.

“To have five people making decisions on marriage, that is not democracy,” said Taylor.

A lot at stake exists for these parties; Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. And if Barrett gets appointed, it would mark the third justice Trump will have appointed in just one term, creating a 6-3 conservative majority.

The potential shift in ideals in the court would create a ripple effect on American citizens who, ironically, have the least say in the appointment of the new justice.

“I just want to be able to honor Ginsburg’s legacy,” said Joya Schreurs, a member of the College Democrats club at Dordt.

While the politicians in Washington bicker over how to best represent their constituents, the people simply mourn the loss of the notorious RBG.

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