McCon­nell pledges quick vote on next jus­tice; Bi­den says no.

Supreme Court va­cancy with elec­tion loom­ing could sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect race

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JONATHAN LEMIRE AND LISA MAS­CARO

WASHINGTON — The death of Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg just over six weeks be­fore the elec­tion cast an im­me­di­ate spotlight on the high court va­cancy, with Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell quickly vow­ing to bring to a vote whomever Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump nom­i­nates.

Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den vig­or­ously dis­agreed, declar­ing that “vot­ers should pick the pres­i­dent, and the pres­i­dent should pick the jus­tice to con­sider.”

McCon­nell, in a state­ment just over an hour af­ter Gins­burg’s death was an­nounced, de­clared un­equiv­o­cally that Trump’s nom­i­nee would re­ceive a vote, even though he had stalled Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s choice for months ahead of the 2016 elec­tion, even­tu­ally pre­vent­ing a vote.

Trump, in brief re­marks to re­porters af­ter learn­ing of her death, called Gins­burg “an amaz­ing woman,” adding that “she led an amaz­ing life.” He had con­tin­ued with a cam­paign speech for more than an hour af­ter the na­tion learned of her death and said later he had been un­aware.

He had boasted in the speech that the next pres­i­den­tial term could of­fer him as many as four ap­point­ments to the nine-mem­ber court, whose mem­bers are con­firmed for life.

Bi­den, re­turn­ing to Delaware from his own cam­paign stop in Min­nesota, praised Gins­burg upon his ar­rival.

Gins­burg was “not only a gi­ant of the le­gal pro­fes­sion but a beloved fig­ure,” he said. She “stood for all of us.”

The process of re­plac­ing her should not be­gin un­til af­ter the elec­tion, he made clear.

Gins­burg’s death could sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect the pres­i­den­tial race, fur­ther stir­ring pas­sions in the deeply di­vided na­tion as the cam­paign pushes into its stretch run.

Trump took the stage for a Min­nesota rally not long be­fore Gins­burg’s death was an­nounced. He spoke for more than 90 min­utes, never men­tion­ing it, ap­par­ently not alerted to the devel­op­ment. He spoke to re­porters about her pass­ing as he boarded Air Force One to re­turn to Washington.

But he did say in his speech that who­ever is elected in Novem­ber will have the abil­ity to po­ten­tially fill sev­eral Supreme va­can­cies, declar­ing, “This is go­ing to be the most im­por­tant elec­tion in the his­tory of our coun­try and we have to get it right.”

A con­fir­ma­tion vote in the Se­nate is not guar­an­teed, even with a Re­pub­li­can ma­jor­ity.

Typ­i­cally it takes sev­eral months to vet and hold hear­ings on a Supreme Court nom­i­nee, and time is short ahead of the elec­tion.

Key sen­a­tors may be re­luc­tant to cast votes so close to the elec­tion. With a slim GOP ma­jor­ity, 53 seats in the 100-mem­ber cham­ber, Trump’s choice could af­ford to lose only a few.

McCon­nell did not spec­ify the tim­ing, but push­ing a con­fir­ma­tion off to the post-elec­tion lame-duck ses­sion would carry other com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the po­lit­i­cal tan­gle of try­ing to push it through in the fi­nal weeks of the year af­ter vot­ers have de­cided con­trol of the White House and con­trol of the Se­nate.

Trump has made ap­point­ments to the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, in­clud­ing two Supreme Court jus­tices, part of his legacy and said last month that he would “ab­so­lutely” try to fill a va­cancy on the high court if one came up be­fore the end of his first term.

“Ab­so­lutely, I’d do it,” Trump said in an Aug. 11 in­ter­view with con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Hugh He­witt. “I would move quickly. Why not? I mean, they would. The Democrats would if they were in this po­si­tion.”

Trump last week added 20 names to his list of can­di­dates he’s pledged to choose from if he had fu­ture va­can­cies to fill.

Bi­den has promised to nom­i­nate a Black woman to the high court if given the chance. He has said he’s also work­ing on a list of po­ten­tial nom­i­nees, but the cam­paign has given no in­di­ca­tion that it will re­lease names be­fore the elec­tion.

The av­er­age num­ber of days to con­firm a jus­tice, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice, is 69 days, which would be af­ter the elec­tion.

Joe Bi­den

Sen. Mitch McCon­nell

ALEX BRAN­DON/AP

A small me­mo­rial sits out­side the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Fri­day af­ter it was an­nounced that Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg died at age 87.

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