Reacting to the announcement that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on late Friday, Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky warned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was likely up late plotting ramming through her replacement while he still has control of the Senate and with few impediments.
Reflecting on how McConnell blocked hearings for Judge Merrick Garland after he was nominated to the court in President Barack Obama's last year in office, Tomasky said no one should expect McConnell will chart the same course when it comes to whomever Donald Trump nominates less than 50 days before the November 2020 election.
"It’s sick because, as we know, this same McConnell back in 2016 thought that February of an election year—February, not September!—was too late for a president to name a new justice in an election year. But that, of course, was when the president was a Democrat," the Daily Beast columnist wrote before adding, "Place yourself in the White House private residence, or down in Louisville, at Chez Mitch, when the news about Ginsburg was conveyed Friday. Do you think either of them took even 30 seconds to reflect on her service to her nation?"
With that in mind, the longtime political observer noted there are three possible scenarios where quickly placing another conservative on the high court could be derailed.
At the top of the list would be Democrats serving notice to McConnell that, should he try and force the issue and get a vote in before the election, they will expand the number of justices on the court if they take control of the Senate and the White House after the election.
As Tomasky put it, "Some Democratic senators who might have Mitch’s ear, say Joe Manchin, will go to him. And Mitch will say: F*ck off. However, the Democrats have a card to play here, if Joe Biden will play it. The number nine (of Supreme Court justices) is neither in the Constitution nor law. Biden, and Chuck Schumer, can say: If you fill this seat now, if Biden wins, we’re expanding the Court to 11 or 13, and your majority is dead. And they should be ready to do it."
Secondly, the Senate Majority Leader may read the tea leaves when it comes to polling on the issue of a late Supreme Court replacement with the election in the offing and, if sentiment is overwhelmingly against it, may take a pass lest he damage the Republican Party even more than Donald Trump has already done. As the columnist put it: "As I’ve often written, our democracy is corrupted and screwed, but it’s still enough of a democracy that public opinion actually matters."
Lastly, McConnell who is desperately trying to hold onto power in the Senate may be able to save some GOP-held Senate seats that are poised to flip if he holds off.
"Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, not up for re-election, has apparently said she will not confirm a justice until the next president is sworn in," he wrote. "That’s one. Democrats would need three more to say that they’ll follow Murkowski’s lead. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally seem the obvious choices. There are others. It all depends on the degree of progressive mobilizing in those states, to make those GOP senators know that if they acquiesce to McConnell’s games, they will lose."
Offering a glimmer of hope, he added, "So all is not lost yet. But gear up for a fight. And as you do, always leave time in your mind for this remarkable, towering American. Everything we do in this corrupt period should be to honor all that she stood for."
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