Obama urges GOP-led Senate to leave Supreme Court seat empty until after 2020 race following death of Justice Ginsburg

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Obama urges GOP-led Senate to leave Supreme Court seat empty until after 2020 race following death of Justice Ginsburg
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19 September 2020
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Former US president Barack Obama greets Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before his 2012 State of the Union address in Washington, DC. ©  AFP / Getty Images North America / Saul Loeb

Former US President Barack Obama has called on the Republican-controlled Senate to delay its confirmation vote to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, citing the GOP’s own playbook during his administration.

Celebrating Ginsburg’s lengthy career on the court following her death on Friday, Obama said that even in her final days, the justice showed an “unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals.” Going forward, however, the former president said Ginsburg’s empty seat should not be filled until after the 2020 election, pointing to a principle invoked by the Republicans following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” Obama wrote in a statement, referring to his pick to replace Scalia.

As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard. The questions before the Court now and in the coming years… are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process.

With the GOP still in control of the White House and Senate, Ginsburg’s passing presents an opportunity to expand the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to 6-3. If Republicans decide to move ahead with a confirmation vote for Ginsburg’s replacement – who has yet to be nominated by President Trump – they will have to act fast, having only a brief window before the 2020 election, which could see the Democrats take over the Senate majority, as well as the Oval Office.

Though he took the opposite stance following Scalia’s death in 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has signaled that a vote would be held before the presidential race concludes, contrary to Obama’s recommendation.

 

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