As the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back in the headlines, Republican leadership in the Senate has made clear that they’d sure like to fill the seat with a conservative justice if her becomes open before this year’s elections.
It’s a deeply craven and cynical move by Senate President Mitch McConnell, who blocked the appointment of Merrick Garland in 2016 and held the seat open for nine months so the lifetime appointment could be given to a Republican-backed justice.
It’s all a hypothetical because Ginsburg is intent on staying on the court but it’s a hypothetical that at least doesn’t have the support of key Republican votes, including that of Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Murkowski said today that she wouldn’t support filling the seat before the election, saying it would be hypocritical after supporting the delay that allowed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to join the court.
“When Republicans held off Merrick Garland it was because nine months prior to the election was too close, we needed to let people decide. And I agreed to do that. If we now say that months prior to the election is OK when nine months was not, that is a double standard and I don’t believe we should do it,” she said, according to a report by The Hill. “So I would not support it.”
Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who helped block Garland in 2016, said he would support doing the same should a vacancy open on the court now.
“In the abstract,” he emphasized, “I would do the same thing in 2020 that I would in 2016.”
However, Grassley is no longer the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position that has gone to diehard Trump supporter Sen. Lindsay Graham.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate and couldn’t afford more than three defections if they hope to break course with 2016 and fill the seat with months before the election. Other GOP “moderates” Sens. Susan Collins (who’s facing a serious challenge thanks to her support of Justice Kavanaugh) and Sen. Mitt Romney refused to weigh in on the issue.