Will the Senate nominate a Trump candidate to succeed him before the election? Hard times are ahead for potential republican dissenters.
Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court in Washington Photo: Reuters
BERLIN taz | It was to be expected. Only hours after the death of Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the US capital Washington, DC, became known on Friday, Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the US Senate, said he would see to it that the Senate passed a nomination President Donald Trump will vote. And that’s despite the fact that the presidential election on November 3rd is less than two months away.
It was the same Mitch McConnell who, in February 2016, when Conservative Chief Justice Antonin Scalia had died, declared that the American people deserved a say in the composition of the Supreme Court and that the Senate would be “so close” to the presidential election not even listen to a candidate nominated by then-incumbent Barack Obama. There were still nine months until the election.
In fact, the Republican majority in the Senate blocked Obama’s candidates in order to give the elected Donald Trump the opportunity to make his first judge nomination just ten days after taking office. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch by the conservative Senate majority, however, initially did not change the majority situation in the Supreme Court: the conservative Scalia was replaced by the conservative Gorsuch.
It was only with the resignation of longtime Chief Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and the Senate’s confirmation of Trump-nominated conservative Brett Kavanaugh that the majority of the court tipped to the right. Kennedy, although appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1987, had mostly voted together with the Liberal judges. With Gorsuch a conservative majority of 5 to 4 votes was now guaranteed.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been ill for a long time, and the left and liberal public in the United States was repeatedly shocked by news of an emergency admission of the liberal grand dame of the US justice system. She herself had said that if Hillary Clinton had won the election in 2016, she would soon have resigned from her judge’s office for health reasons – but she still wanted to survive Trump’s presidency. She wasn’t granted that now.
So Trump actually has the option to appoint a third judge to the Supreme Court. This would mean that a conservative majority of 6: 3 judges’ votes would last for many years. Should Trump be re-elected, it could be even more drastic, because the current senior incumbent chief judge is the liberal Stephen Breyer at 82.
Whether Trump will get another candidate through before the election, or at least before a successor takes office on January 20 or the constitution of a new Congress on January 6, now depends on whether the conservative majority in the Senate follows Mitch McConnell’s instructions .
Deviating senators are threatened with attacks from Trump
However, that is uncertain. Because on November 3rd, not only the President, but also the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate will be re-elected – this time including 23 seats that are currently held by Republican Senators. A few, including according to the New York Times Susan Collins from Main, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Lindsay Graham from South Carolina and Charles E. Grassley from Iowa have already expressed doubts as to whether a nomination process, which normally lasts almost three months, should be rushed through so shortly before an election.
Republican senators in particular, who also need the votes of moderate voters in the center for their re-election, will think twice about whether to play along in such a maneuver.
It is also clear, however, that if they deviate, they would have to expect a flood of attacks from the White House in the middle of the election campaign. In the past few years, Trump has made it abundantly clear how tough he is against even the smallest contradiction from within his own ranks – and mostly with success.
Most recently, Mitt Romney felt it: The senator and former Republican presidential candidate was the only Republican who dared to vote against Trump on one of the two counts during the impeachment process. Since then he has been an outlaw in his own ranks, without any chance of playing any important role under the Trump presidency.
Evangelicals and the NRA are almost at the goal of their dreams
The dispute over the successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a major impact on the last few weeks of the election campaign, so much is foreseeable.
However, it is not so easy to predict what effects this will have on the election result. If Trump manages to whip through a conservative judge with the help of McConnell and a closed Republican Senate faction, the Democrats will brand this as a betrayal by the Republicans of their own allegedly so honest principles from 2016 – but that is an argument that Trump voters * should not be of interest to anyone.
Because the shifting of the majority in the Supreme Court is for a large part of the basis that helped Trump to victory in 2016, especially the conservative evangelicals, the core of their political commitment, they have long been hoping to remove the old fundamental judgment on the legalization of abortions from the 1973 to finally tip over.
Even for the gun lobby of the National Rifle Association, which is still influential despite all the internal scandals, a conservative supreme court is the best guarantee that the 2nd amendment will continue to be interpreted in their favor, thus preventing any attempt at stricter firearms controls.
In this respect, Trump can definitely score points with his own base with the dispute over the successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It’s more difficult on the democratic side. If the appointment is completed before the election date, a major motivation for the left and liberal electorate to vote at all, namely the prevention of a cemented conservative majority in the Supreme Court, simply disappears. In this respect, the fight against a Senate vote before the election is also a fight for the democrats’ ability to mobilize. The weeks will be exciting – and they are likely to get very dirty.