supreme court

RBG Health Scare a Reminder of Republican Plans to Ram Through Court Nominee This Year

She’s been through a lot. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Despite the prayers for her well-being that millions of progressives offer each week, and her own remarkable courage and stamina, health scares involving Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continue to arise, as the Washington Post reports:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced Friday that she is being treated for a recurrence of cancer, this time on her liver, but says she remains able to do her work on the Supreme Court.

“I have often said I would remain a member of the court as long as I can do the job full steam,” Ginsburg said in a written statement issued by the Supreme Court. “I remain fully able to do that.”

Ginsburg, 87, the court’s oldest member, has battled cancer four times and has had other health concerns. She was in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland earlier this week for an unrelated infection related to her gallbladder.

No one questions her toughness, but at her age, it’s necessary to contemplate a forced departure from the Court for Ginsburg, and its implications.

There should be no doubt that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell would insist on filling any SCOTUS vacancy this year so long as the two months or so necessary to vet and confirm a justice is still on the calendar. With the elimination of the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmations in 2017, there would be little Democrats could do to stop Republicans from taking this step, and McConnell has already made it plain he will ignore complaints of hypocrisy arising from his refusal to allow any progress toward confirmation of Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 (he’s sticking to his not-very-convincing argument that his opposition to election-year confirmations only applies to situations where the president’s party does not control the Senate).

Meanwhile, Trump has let it be known that he’d love a SCOTUS confirmation fight before November to rouse the Republican base (just as, Republicans believed, the Kavanaugh fight did in 2018, “saving” the Senate). He reportedly hoped either Justice Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito would retire at the end of the recently concluded term, even though replacing either of them wouldn’t affect the ideological balance on the Court. But a vacancy in the seat held by Ginsburg could indeed reshape the Court if Trump is able to replace her with a Federalist Society stalwart. So the drive to make that happen would, without any question, be undertaken, and it would be holy war for both sides.

For a really scary hypothetical, what if the vacancy occurs too late for a preelection confirmation? If Trump is reelected and Republicans hold onto the Senate, maybe not. But if Biden wins and Democrats do flip the Senate, every right-wing constituency group with a stake in constitutional law would howl at Trump and McConnell to ram through a confirmation in a post-election “lame-duck” session. Again, it’s unlikely Democrats would be able to stop it, and in fact, a postelection confirmation might earn the votes of some actual Senate lame ducks (one thinks of Susan Collins and Cory Gardner) who might have defected if they had to vote prior to Election Day.

Would there be blowback from a second stolen Supreme Court seat in just four years? Could be:

But that probably wouldn’t inhibit conservatives for whom control of SCOTUS is the ball game:

Liberals everywhere are hoping for Ginsburg’s safety over the coming months.

Yes, Republicans Would Ram Through a Court Nominee This Year