Supreme Court justices pay tributes to Ginsburg

Members of the Supreme Court on Saturday remembered their late colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a “hero,” “a rock of righteousness” and a “cherished colleague and friend” respectively.

Here are excerpts from the eight justices’ statements:

Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.: Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.

Justice Samuel Alito: Justice Ginsburg will go down as a leading figure in the history of the Court. She will be remembered for her intelligence, learning, and remarkable fortitude. She has been and will continue to be an inspiration for many.

Justice Stephen Breyer: I heard of Ruth’s death while I was reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish at the Rosh Hashanah service. I thought: a great Justice; a woman of valour; a rock of righteousness; and my good, good friend. The world is a better place for her having lived in it. And so is her family; her friends; the legal community; and the nation.

Justice Neil Gorsuch: Louise and I have lost a cherished colleague and friend. For forty years, Ruth served the American people as one of our most distinguished judges. Her sacrifices for the country were many, but always performed with honor. We are blessed by the happy memories that will remain, like traveling with Ruth to London where (to her delight) an uninformed guide kept calling her “Ruthie,” or all the opera she tried so valiantly to teach me, or her sweet tooth at lunch, or the touching stories of her remarkable life with Marty. We will miss Ruth and our hearts go out to her family. May she rest in peace.

Justice Elena Kagan: To me, as to countless others, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. As an attorney, she led the fight to grant women equal rights under the law. As a judge, she did justice every day — working to ensure that this country’s legal system lives up to its ideals and extends its rights and protections to those once excluded. And in both roles, she held to — indeed, exceeded — the highest standards of legal craft. Her work was as careful as it was creative, as disciplined as it was visionary. It will endure for as long as Americans retain their commitment to law.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh: I learned from her principled voice and marveled at her wonderful wit at our weekly conferences and daily lunches. Justice Ginsburg paved the way for women to become lawyers and judges. She made it possible for women and girls like my daughters to compete on equal footing as student-athletes. When Justice Ginsburg was last in my office earlier this year, I pointed out a photo I keep of her standing with four women who served as law clerks in my chambers in my first term. As long as I am fortunate enough to serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep that photo prominently in my office as a continuing tribute to Justice Ginsburg and as a daily reminder to work hard and pursue equal justice.

Justice Anthony Kennedy: In our court sessions and conferences Ruth was remarkably well prepared for every case, down to the smallest detail. If the two of us disagreed, it was always in a civil, principled, respectful way. By her learning she taught devotion to the law. By her dignity she taught respect for others and her love for America. By her reverence for the Constitution, she taught us to preserve it to secure our freedom.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: My dear friend and colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American hero. She spent her life fighting for the equality of all people, and she was a pathbreaking champion of women’s rights. She served our Court and country with consummate dedication, tirelessness, and passion for justice. She has left a legacy few could rival. I will miss Ruth greatly. She welcomed me to the Court with a warmth I could not have expected, and I came to feel a special kinship with her. She was someone whose wisdom, kindness, and unwavering support I could always rely on. I will forever cherish the moments we shared.

Justice Clarence Thomas: Through the many challenges both professionally and personally, she was the essence of grace, civility and dignity. She was a superb judge who gave her best and exacted the best from each of us, whether in agreement or disagreement. And, as outstanding as she was as a judge, she was an even better colleague — unfailingly gracious, thoughtful, and civil.

Source: Politico, Supreme Court justices pay tributes to Ginsburg

Supreme Court vacancy scrambles 2020 Senate map

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death 46 days before the election immediately jolted Republicans’ efforts to protect their imperiled majority in the Senate.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday he would hold a floor vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat, attention quickly turned to the most endangered Republicans on the Senate map, including two incumbents up for reelection in states Trump lost in 2016: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The issue is likely to supercharge base voters in both parties and add even more massive implications to the outcome, on top of the pandemic and economic crisis that are already shaping Senate campaigns. A nomination fight — either before the Nov. 3 election or teed up for a lame-duck session of Congress in the weeks after — could force tough votes for a handful of other vulnerable GOP senators running in battleground states, like Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and two senators in Georgia.

Several Senate Republicans in competitive elections — McSally and Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, both of whom were appointed to their seats — immediately called for the Senate to vote on Trump’s nominee to the court. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina joined them on Saturday, saying in a statement that he will support a Trump nominee. Other senators released statements praising Ginsburg’s life and service to the country, but did not say where they stood on replacing her prior to the presidential inauguration next January.

“This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,” McSally said in a tweet.

Collins said in a statement Saturday that the Senate should not vote on Trump’s nominee before the election. But she will likely face heavy pressure after her support for Justice Brett Kavanaugh sparked intense backlash and became the central issue for Democrats attempting to unseat her.

“In fairness to the American people, who will either be reelecting the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd,” Collins said.

Collins’ Democratic opponent, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, did not mention the coming confirmation fight in her initial statement on Ginsburg’s passing.

Gardner, the other Republican up for reelection in a state Trump lost, is trailing in the polls against former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Gardner called Ginsburg “a trailblazing leader” in a statement but did not address his party’s plans to fill the seat. In a debate organized by a civic group in Western Colorado on Saturday, Gardner declined to say whether he stood by his 2016 position that the vacancy should be filled after the election.

Hickenlooper did not participate in that debate, which was not televised, but said in a statement late Friday that a justice should not be confirmed “until after a new president is sworn in next year.In a call with campaign volunteers, Hickenlooper called it “the same situation as four years ago” and called on supporters to pressure Gardner over the vacancy.

Beyond those two incumbents, a confirmation fight could have more unpredictable effects. Republicans have credited the 2018 Kavanaugh confirmation with activating some of their base voters, especially in red-leaning states like Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. But a partisan fight to jam through a nominee before Election Day could also repel swing voters in states like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina.

A confirmation battle could also put pressure on Democratic Sens. Doug Jones in deep red Alabama and Gary Peters in Michigan, a key presidential battleground.

Democrats moved swiftly to attempt to hold Republicans accountable after many of them sided against filling a vacancy to the Supreme Court in 2016, during former President Barack Obama’s final year in office. American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC, immediately began sending out statements and videos of press clippings of Republican senators in 2016 calling for the seat not to be filled in an election year.

In particular, the spotlight will be on a handful of senators either in the most direct position to impact the nomination, or in the most competitive races. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is facing his toughest reelection of his career against Democrat Jaime Harrison, is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and previously said he would not to push through a confirmation in an election year. Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Ernst and Tillis, all of whom face competitive challenges this year, are all on the committee.

Outside groups quickly set markers for the upcoming battle. Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, called on Senate Republicans to confirm Trump’s nominee.

“This is a turning point for the nation in the fight to protect its most vulnerable, the unborn,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “The pro-life grassroots have full confidence that President Trump, Leader McConnell, Chairman Graham, and every pro-life senator will move swiftly to fill this vacancy.”

On the other side, Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a leading abortion rights organization, said the Senate should not take up the divisive nomination fight.

“To be very clear, it would be an absolute slap in the face to the millions of Americans who honor and cherish Justice Ginsburg’s legacy if President Trump and Mitch McConnell were to replace her with someone who would undo her life’s work and take away the rights and freedoms for which she fought so hard,” Johnson said.

McConnell’s announcement also energized Democratic grassroots donors. In the hour-and-a-half following his announcement, over $10 million in donations was processed by ActBlue, the online donor platform for Democratic candidates and liberal nonprofits.

A spokesperson for Crooked Media, a media company formed by former Obama staffers, told POLITICO that its fund for Democratic Senate candidates raised $3 million on Friday evening.

Ernst’s campaign received some backlash after sending a fundraising email focused on the Supreme Court shortly after the news of Ginsburg’s death, according to the liberal political website Iowa Starting Line. Ernst said in a statement the email should not have gone out. “Though I never saw it, it was sent out under my name, and I take responsibility for it. Tonight, my prayers are with the family of Justice Ginsburg.”

Polling in three states with critical Senate races from The New York Times and Siena College showed an edge for Democrats, both on the ballot test and the court issue. In Arizona, where Democrat Mark Kelly leads McSally, 53 percent of voters said they would trust former Vice President Joe Biden to do a better job choosing a Supreme Court justice, and just 43 percent said Trump. In Maine, where Gideon led Collins, 59 percent of voters said Biden, while just 37 percent said Trump. In North Carolina, where Tillis trailed Democrat Cal Cunningham, the gap was narrower: 47 percent said Biden, and 44 percent said Trump.

Tillis on Saturday announced that he would support Trump’s nominee and framed it as a critical difference in the coming election.

“There is a clear choice on the future of the Supreme Court between the well-qualified and conservative jurist President Trump will nominate and I will support, and the liberal activist Joe Biden will nominate and Cal Cunningham will support, who will legislate radical, left-wing policies from the bench,” Tillis said.

Democrats immediately criticized him for hypocrisy given Tillis’ calls in 2016 to allow voters to cast their presidential ballots and not considering President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Tillis in his statement said the situations were different because Trump is facing voters, who will render judgment on his pick.

Cunningham, in a statement, did not specifically address Tillis’ stance, but called for the Senate to wait until after the election to move forward, pointing out that voters in North Carolina are already able to cast absentee votes.

“They deserve that opportunity to have their voices heard, and then, it should be up to the next president and next Senate to fill the vacancy on our Court,” he said.

Ginsburg’s death was met differently among candidates in Georgia’s special election, in which Loeffler faces an intraparty challenge from Rep. Doug Collins, while Democrats have rallied behind Rev. Raphael Warnock. Because the race is an all-party ballot, Loeffler and Collins are essentially locked in a Republican primary on Nov. 3 — and both sought to strike combative postures Friday night after Ginsburg’s passing.

Collins mourned — not Ginsburg’s passing — but “the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered” because, he said, Ginsburg “defended” abortion rights, which the high court established decades before she became a justice.

Loeffler was the first Republican senator to call for Trump’s nominee to receive a vote, tweeting her stance prior to McConnell’s statement.

“Our country’s future is at stake & @realDonaldTrump has every right to pick a new justice before the election. I look forward to supporting a strict constructionist who will protect the right to life & safeguard our conservative values,” said Loeffler, who was sworn in earlier this year.

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.

Source: Politico, Supreme Court vacancy scrambles 2020 Senate map

Washington remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg

News of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing Friday brought an outpouring of tributes from Washington’s political luminaries, who remembered the life and trailblazing career of the Supreme Court justice who became widely known as the “The Notorious RBG.”

Here are some of their thoughts:

President Donald Trump: “Today, our Nation mourns the loss of a titan of the law. A fighter to the end, Justice Ginsburg battled cancer, and other very long odds, throughout her remarkable life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ginsburg family and their loved ones during this difficult time. May her memory be a great and magnificent blessing to the world.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She was an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence: “Justice Ginsburg led an inspiring life, and her storied career paved the way for women in the law. As an advocate and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, she was a champion for women whose tireless determination reshaped our national life.”

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris: “For all who believe in the power of the law as a force for change, Justice Ginsburg was and will always be a titan. She was a relentless defender of justice in our country and a legal mind for the ages.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Tonight, the flags are flying at half staff over the Capitol to honor the patriotism of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Every woman and girl, and therefore every family, in America has benefitted from her brilliance.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Justice Ginsburg overcame one personal challenge and professional barrier after another. She climbed from a modest Brooklyn upbringing to a seat on our nation’s highest court and into the pages of American history. Her intelligence and determination earned her respect and admiration throughout the legal world, and indeed throughout the entire nation, which grieves alongside her family, friends, and colleagues.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer who served the Supreme Court—and the country—faithfully for 27 years. My prayers go out to her family during this time.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Tonight, we mourn the passing of a giant in American history, a champion for justice, a trailblazer for women. She would want us all to fight as hard as we can to preserve her legacy.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham: “Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes. She served with honor and distinction as a member of the Supreme Court. While I had many differences with her on legal philosophy, I appreciate her service to our nation.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee: “The country lost a truly amazing woman tonight with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She may have been small of stature but she was an absolute giant of jurisprudence.”

Former President Barack Obama: “Justice Ginsburg inspired the generations who followed her, from the tiniest trick-or-treaters to law students burning the midnight oil to the most powerful leaders in the land. Michelle and I admired her greatly, we’re profoundly thankful for the legacy she left this country, and we offer our gratitude and our condolences to her children and grandchildren tonight.”

Former President Bill Clinton: “We have lost one of the most extraordinary Justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and landmark opinions moved us closer to a more perfect union. And her powerful dissents reminded us that we walk away from our Constitution’s promise at our peril.”

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton: “Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. During her extraordinary career, this Brooklyn native broke barriers & the letters RBG took on new meaning—as battle cry & inspiration. Her legal mind & dedication to justice leave an indelible mark on America.”

Source: Politico, Washington remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg

What's next in the Senate's colossal Supreme Court fight

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death instantly ignited a power struggle over whether President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate would choose her successor ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed quickly to hold a vote on a nominee and Trump is expected to make a selection within days. Replacing Ginsburg with a conservative would shift the balance of the court for a generation and Democrats are already fighting back.

Amid questions about the political feasibility and sheer logistics, here’s how the coming days and weeks are likely to unfold:

Does McConnell have enough time to confirm someone?

Yes, if he has the votes.

Since 1975, the Congressional Research Service estimates that it’s taken an average of 40 days for a Supreme Court nominee simply to get a hearing, let alone win the support of the Judiciary Committee and full Senate. But that timetable isn’t etched in marble; it’s up to GOP leadership.

The nominee has to be approved by the Judiciary Committee before reaching the floor, and Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, working closely with McConnell, can tailor a schedule to their liking. There’s also nothing to stop Republicans from voting on a Supreme Court nomination after the election in a lame duck session. The real deadline may be when the next Senate convenes on Jan. 3, 2021.

Can Democrats block a nominee on their own and can Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer deploy any procedural tricks to stop McConnell?


There will always be procedural wrangling, but Democrats can’t do much without help from at least a few Republicans. A simple majority is all it takes under current Senate rules to confirm a Supreme Court nominee since McConnell eliminated the filibuster to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

Democrats can raise objections about a potential nominee, raise hell in confirmation hearings and on the floor of the Senate, but ultimately, the committee and McConnell will decide when the key votes occur.

How many Republicans need to defect to derail a nomination, and who are the ones to watch?

Democrats need four Republicans to vote with them to block a nominee. That’s because the GOP holds a 53-47 majority, and Vice President Mike Pence can break any 50-50 tie.

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who already voted against Trump’s most recent Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had previously emphasized that no vacancy should be filled this close to an election. She affirmed that stance after Ginsburg’s death with a statement on Sept. 20: “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”

— Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Sept. 19 that she believes the person who wins the presidential election on Nov. 3 should decide who makes the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Collins faces a tough election this fall where she’s tried to emphasize her independent streak, though the move may turn off the GOP base.

— Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has broken with his party on impeachment and been unafraid to stand in Trump’s way at crucial moments in his presidency when they disagree. He hasn’t indicated what he would do in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy but he’s on everyone’s watch list for a potential defection.

Other GOP senators to keep an eye on are incumbents who face potentially tough races and may want to boost their bipartisan credibility, such as Cory Gardner of Colorado, or Senate institutionalists who are retiring like Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Alexander, however, said Sept. 20 that he thought a nomination should move forward.

Could the Mark Kelly factor upend McConnell’s plans?

McSally is fighting for her political life against former astronaut Mark Kelly, who has held commanding polling leads in recent weeks. Because the contest is technically a special election, a Kelly win means he could be sworn in as early as the end of November. That would narrow the window for Republicans to approve a nominee during the Senate’s lame duck session.

What happened to the “McConnell rule”?

When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016, President Barack Obama moved to nominate Merrick Garland, an appeals court judge, to fill the seat. But McConnell blocked the Senate from voting on Garland’s nomination, saying an election-year vacancy should wait until after voters decide. That’s got Democrats outraged and slamming McConnell for hypocrisy.

But McConnell says there was always a caveat. The Kentucky Republican said the rule only applies when voters have elected a Senate of a different party than the president. Because he and Trump share the same party, he argued again on Friday, the principle doesn’t apply in this scenario.

Source: Politico, What’s next in the Senate’s colossal Supreme Court fight

‘This means everything’: Trump finds new rallying cry with Ginsburg seat

President Donald Trump is preparing to move swiftly to nominate a new justice to the Supreme Court, hoping to deliver a jolt of energy to his beleaguered reelection campaign and give his voters a new focus in a year ravaged by a recession and pandemic.

After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, top Trump aides started mobilizing plans they had prepared for months for a possible vacancy in the final months of his term.

“This means everything,” said Bryan Lanza, a 2016 Trump campaign official who is close to the 2020 team. “The future of the U.S. Supreme Court is what this election is now about. Period.”

Trump is expected to make a formal nomination as soon as the middle of next week, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in late 2017 and who Trump considered for an earlier vacancy, is considered the leading contender, according to four people familiar with the matter. She has strong support inside the White House Counsel’s office, which had already vetted her paperwork when she was nominated for the appellate court, according to one of the people.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Friday night that the nominee will be put to the Senate floor for a vote, though some of his fellow Republicans balked and Democrats quickly called for a delay until after the Nov. 3 election when control of the White House and Senate could flip.

Trump was initially left in the dark about Ginsburg’s death while on stage for a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minn., according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

After Trump walked off the stage, making a fist pump to the beat of the Village People’s “YMCA,” the president was seen talking to top aides John McEntee and Dan Scavino while he walked over to reporters.

“She just died?” Trump asked, touching his ear to hear a reporter ask him about the news as Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” played in the background from the rally. “Wow, I didn’t know that. You’re telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that.”

He then turned to board Air Force One back to Washington.

The White House started working Friday night, just after word of Ginsburg’s death around 7:30 p.m., to quickly assemble a communications team needed to push through the confirmation, according to a person close to the White House. “The discussions are happening right now,” the person said.

The effort was immediately seen by Trump aides and allies as a potential game-changer for their struggling campaign, with the president under fire throughout the spring and summer for his coronavirus response and struggling economy.

“Now every conservative that’s on the fence knows what’s at stake,” a former White House official said.

With just over six weeks before the election, national polls show Trump lagging far behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden. His standing has fallen in many key states, such as Ohio and Iowa, and even in traditionally red states, such as Arizona and Georgia, in both public and campaign polls.

That’s in part because Trump has struggled to craft a coherent case for his reelection and has spent months veering from one hot-button issue to another. But the Supreme Court fight will focus the campaign and energize supporters in a way little else could have, according to interviews with half a dozen Trump allies.

“All this election stuff and we signed an [executive order] on this or that — it doesn’t matter,” a White House official said. “This is the election.”

Trump frequently touts the hundreds of federal judges, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, appointed and confirmed during his tenure, even if he often inflates the total number. It was a point he made again Friday night while on stage in Minnesota.

“It shows our voters that’s why they elected him in the first place and that’s why he needs to be reelected,” a Republican close to the president said.

“The left is already activated and Trump has coalesced the left faster than they’ve ever been able to do before,” said Lanza, the former campaign aide. “This brings home disaffected Republicans because now they know what’s really at stake.”

Trump released a list of potential picks for a vacancy last week, months after the Supreme Court dealt him a series of blows on cases pertaining to hot-button issues that have fired up his base of conservative evangelicals in the past, including immigration, abortion and LGBTQ protections.

“Any nominee should have a long record of being a constitutional conservative — applying the law and not making it up,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that is in touch with the White House.

He said “it’s doable” for Trump to fill the seat before the election, given that Ginsburg’s nomination took just 42 days from the day President Bill Clinton nominated her to the final Senate vote in the summer of 1993, according to the Congressional Research Service. (The average number of days from nomination to confirmation since 1975 is nearly 70 days.)

Trump released his first list of potential picks for a vacancy during the 2016 campaign, a move that helped bring skeptical social conservatives into his camp enough to support his upset victory over Hillary Clinton.

“We are not running solely on the Covid response and the economy,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and CEO of a drilling services company. “This resets the race.”

Nancy Cook, Daniel Lippman and Tina Nguyen contributed to this report.

Source: Politico, ‘This means everything’: Trump finds new rallying cry with Ginsburg seat