By Lenin O’Mahony
The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has brought about a deep sadness across our country, and our world. Her death has also been the catalyst of intense political division, as the argument over her replacement in the Supreme Court has led to yet another fierce battle in DC between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have been eager to replace the now empty Justice position before the November election, which would become the third Justice appointed by President Trump.
On September 26th Trump announced that he would be choosing Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat. Trump has previously appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch. Both are considered to be very conservative leaning Justices, and Barrett is identified as a right leaning judge as well. This would give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority, which would lock in Supreme Court decisions in favor of more conservative rulings.
In past rulings Chief Justice John Roberts has occasionally voted in opposition to his conservative peers, which made Supreme Court rulings somewhat unreliable for conservative goals. With another Trump appointee and the subsequent majority, Republican lawmakers are much more likely to receive Supreme Court approval, even with a more moderate Chief Justice John Roberts voting on the line.
Democrats are ready to fight President Trump and the Republican lawmakers, and are even willing to expand the number of Supreme Court Justices in order to take away the conservative majority if the Trump appointee is confirmed. Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has not been willing to state whether he’d consider expanding the court, claiming he wants to keep the focus on the election. Some lawmakers have expressed a hesitancy to change the number of Justices, claiming it will result in a lack of legitimacy in the Court; as it could be continually expanded with every new President looking for a majority.
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said that a Trump appointee would receive a vote in the Senate. In a tweet Sen. Sanders expressed frustration at the apparent disrespect to Justice Ginsburg's last wish, which was to be replaced by the newly elected president after the November election. Sen. Sanders also spoke about hypocrisy on the side of McConnell, referring to the fact that Republicans blocked President Obama's Supreme Court nominee in 2016, on the claim that there should not be a Supreme Court replacement during an election year.
The role of the Supreme Court is essential in the American Federal Government. It acts as a check and balance for the other two branches of the federal government, because it has the final decision on the constitutionality of laws or regulations passed by the Congress or executive orders from the President. Important rulings have decided the federal stance on abortion, segregation, and more.
Some view this as a flawed and manipulated system, which is what some politicians believe is occurring now with the political fight over RBG’s replacement. Many congressmen and congresswomen believe that the responsibility of selecting the next Supreme Court Justice should be left up to the candidate elected this November, but it’s expected that President Trump and his supporters will fight to get their candidate confirmed into the Court before the end of the year.
Many Senate Republicans who helped block President Obama’s pick in 2016 have changed their stance or backed off early claims to oppose President Trump’s nominee. Many Senators are also locked in tight re-election races, and, as a result, are unlikely to oppose President Trump for fear of losing much of their base support.
The days and weeks following the regretful passing of Justice Ginsburg have been filled with heated debate, deep sorrow, and frustration from voters on both sides of the aisle. However, it has proved to be an unfortunately unexpected addition to the last four years of President Trump's presidency, which has been filled with allegations, scandal, imprisonment, and even impeachment.
This has in particular been an interesting time for Saint Mary’s current first year students, who spent almost the entirety of their high school years under President Trump's administration. I know, as a member of the class of 2024, we are all watching carefully as this political battle unfolds, knowing that what happens now will inevitably define the next four years of our college experience.
Victoria Vidales '21,