Murphy: Republicans don’t have ‘guts’ to wait for Ginsburg replacement
Gov. Phil Murphy Monday lambasted U.S. Senate Republicans for saying they'll vote soon to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday from cancer.
"For Republicans, this isn’t about the nation’s future," Murphy said in a tweet Monday, echoing comments he was making at the same time during his regularly scheduled novel coronavirus media briefing. "It’s a blatant power grab by those whose mission is to undo decades of civil rights progress, protect polluters over the environment, gut health care, and deny a woman the right to make her own reproductive decisions."
Under the U.S. Constitution, President Donald Trump can nominate a replacement for Ginsburg — the third opening on the nation's highest court in his presidency so far. Republicans are in the majority of the U.S. Senate, which confirms presidential nominations to the Supreme Court.
Trump has said he expects to make a nomination by Saturday — which would be before Ginsburg is buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery, but ahead of the first presidential debate.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, and the Senate GOP leadership team was to meet Monday behind closed doors on next steps. That's despite McConnell and several other prominent Republicans saying in 2016 that a nominee by then-president Barack Obama shouldn't be confirmed in the last year of the presidential term, and that a nomination should reflect the will of the voters expressed in that year's election.
"I want you to use my words against me," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in 2016. "If there's a Republican president (elected) in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination."
Graham has since he's changed his mind because of the bitter battle over Trump's last nominee, now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Four Republicans could halt a quick confirmation, assuming all Democrats in the Senate hold together on opposing one. Trump has criticized Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for saying they'll oppose a vote before elections. He warned they would be “very badly hurt” by voters.
Trump also went so far as to disparage reports that Ginsburg had told her granddaughter it was her wish that a replacement justice not be confirmed until the inauguration of a new president. Providing no evidence, Trump suggested that Democratic political foes were behind the report, including Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the chamber's impeachment probe.
Murphy, in his comments Monday, asked "How many Republicans will have the guts to stand up and demand that the process be put on hold until after the nation chooses its next president?"
"That’s really a rhetorical question, as so few have shown any guts over the past four years," he said.
He said McConnell was demonstrating "rank hypocrisy" in planning to hold a vote on a nominee.
"They want to ram a nominee through 6 WEEKS before a presidential election when, just 4 years ago, they refused to offer even a hearing to a nominee whose name was put forward 8 MONTHS before an election," Murphy wrote.
Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate. If there were a 50-50 tie, it could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
There is another potential wrinkle: Because Arizona’s Senate race is a special election, that seat could be filled as early as Nov. 30. If Democrat Mark Kelly wins and is seated, that would narrow the window for McConnell.
Most Republicans concurred on the need for speed and one named a practical reason: The nine-member court, argued Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, must be full if called upon to decide the outcome of a disputed presidential election.
Democrats have been eying another option to rebalance the court if a Trump nominee is confirmed — which would give a 6-3 majority to what's generally regarded as the conservative wing of the court, though justices often pride themselves on being apolitical.
"If Senate Republicans jam through a replacement for Justice Ginsburg before Jan 20, 2021, we must commit to expand the Supreme Court at first opportunity to finally balance a court that has been in Republican hands for now over 50 years," U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J. 9th District, said on Twitter this weekend.
The number of lifetime seats on the bench is set to nine by federal law but the Constitution does not prescribe any limit.
Not all Democrats supported the idea of increasing the number of justices to 11 or 13. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., last year was non-committal, saying he was "not taking it off the table" because "our Supreme Court is way out of whack." But added that Republicans would later be able to add even more justices.
New Jersey's other Democratic U.S. senator, Bob Menendez, said Congress should honor the Ginsburg's wish to not be replaced by a potential lame duck president.
Includes previous reporting by Sergio Bichao
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