The death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg sparks hypocricy in the Senate

Following precedent

Ruth Bader Ginseng in her last Supreme Court Justice group photo.

Tribune News Service

Ruth Bader Ginseng in her last Supreme Court Justice group photo.

Mackenzie Moore, News Editor

On Sept18, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the second woman in the history of the United States to serve on the Supreme Court after her appointment during the Clinton administration in 1993, passed away at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

Justice Ginsburg’s record was imperfect. However, she was largely championed as a figurehead for women’s rights and other progressive ideals due to both her firebrand personality and majority and dissenting opinions on cases such as United States v. Virginia, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedtand Shelby County v. Holder. This case, which dealt with voting jurisdiction and to which Ginsburg gave the dissenting opinion that resulted in her being given the nickname “Notorious RBG”, has been criticized for making it easier to prevent minorities from voting.   

Following the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, politicians on both sides of the aisle released statements honoring the late Supreme Court justice. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasted no time on the niceties that typically occur after the death of a major political and cultural figure. 

“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. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell stated. 

This is despite the fact that after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February of 2016, the senator refused to have the Senate vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, due to the fact that it was an election year. This ultimately led to Neil Gorsuch joining the Supreme Court after Donald Trump took office. 

Mitch McConnell’s push to hold a vote on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement before Trump potentially leaves office is incredibly unethical. In 2016, McConnell backed up his stance on not allowing a Senate vote on Obama’s nominee by stating that the people deserved to have a say in who the next justice was through the presidential election.  

However, now that Democratic nominee Joe Biden appears to be leading incumbent Republican nominee Donald Trump in national pollsSenator McConnell has apparently had a change of heart. Considering the shift that has taken place over the last couple of years, which has resulted in the Democrats gaining the majority in the House of Representatives, it appears that the six year majority held by the Republican party in the Senate may not last much longer. 

With this in mind, it appears blatantly clear that McConnell’s motives are purely partisanWhile he states that the events of 2016 were different because Republicans held both the House and the Senate and that cross-party Supreme Court nominations in an election year are rare, this reasoning is not sufficient for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, Supreme Court Justices tend to avoid leaving their jobs during election years, making the historical information Senator McConnell provides insignificant. Additionally, the variables surrounding the events of 2016 also occurred in 1956. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to appoint Supreme Court Justice William Brennan less than a month before the presidential election despite both the House and Senate majorities being held by the Democratic party. In Obama’s case, however, there were roughly nine months between Justice Scalia’s death and the next presidential election, meaning that President Obama had a much more reasonable period of time to go through the nomination and appointment process than President Eisenhower did. 

Had Senator McConnell approved of the Senate holding a vote for Obama’s nominee in 2016, perhaps excluding criticism on the timing of his recent statement, the Kentucky senator’s words would not have caused a wave. But considering that it was McConnell himself who made the decision in 2016, he should be following that same precedent four years later. Ultimately, it appears that Senator McConnell wants American voters to have their say, but only if they agree with him.