Conscious of politics to the last, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reportedly dictated a statement saying it was her “most fervent wish” that her seat on the Supreme Court not be filled until after the next president is inaugurated in January.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly rejected that notion, saying President Trump deserves the chance to fill the seat and the Senate will act on whomever he picks.
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Justice Ginsburg passed away Friday, but days before she dictated a statement to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, asking that the seat remain vacant into the new year, according to NPR.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” NPR reported the granddaughter quoting the justice.
Senate Democrats immediate echoed her demand.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on Twitter.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, pointed to Justice Ginsburg’s own comments, saying they are a challenge to Senate Republicans.
Four years ago Mr. McConnell blocked action on President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia for most of 2016, saying the pick should be made by whoever won that year’s election.
Mr. McConnell said it had been decades since a Senate controlled by one party confirmed a nominee of a president of the opposing party in an election year.
But he says the current situation is different, since the GOP holds both the White House and Senate.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” he said in a statement Friday.
“By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise,” he said.
To succeed, he’ll have to convince enough Republicans to go along.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, told Alaska Public Radio earlier in the day — before news of the justice’s death — that she wouldn’t vote to confirm a replacement until after the election.
But Sen. Martha McSally, Arizona Republican, took to Twitter to say she’s backing Mr. McConnell.
“The U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,” she wrote.
The hypotheticals were in full swing Friday.
Ms. McSally currently holds the seat of the late Sen. John McCain, and she faces voters in November. If she loses, her Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, could be sworn in as early as Nov. 30, the Arizona Republic reported Friday.
That would narrow the GOP’s leeway to operate in a lame-duck session.
Sen. Mitt Romney’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, shot down a Twitter report that the Utah Republican had committed to waiting until after the election.
“This is grossly false,” wrote Liz Johnson.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would oversee a confirmation, said in 2018 that once the primary season began, he wouldn’t support confirmation.
He was mum on the matter Friday night, instead, he released a statement praising Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.
“Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and one of the most closely watched votes in any Supreme Court battle, also praised the justice and avoided the politics of the moment.
Democrats and their supporters, however, were fully engaged.
Liberal pressure groups from North Carolina to Colorado challenged Republican senators up for reelection this year to abide by the 2016 McConnell standard and put off any decision until after the election.
Mr. Trump this week released a list of names he would consider for future Supreme Court nominees.
Pressure groups from both sides of the ideological spectrum have demanded Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden do the same.
Justice Ginsburg’s deathbed admonition is the latest foray into a world of politics that many other justices avoided.
In 2016 she had to apologize for what she acknowledged were “ill-advised” attacks on Mr. Trump, at the time a candidate.
“I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she told The New York Times, adding that her late husband would have said they should “move to New Zealand” in it happened.
She also blasted Mr. Trump to CNN, calling him a fake.
“He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment,” she said.
She later issued a statement saying judges “should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office.”