NJ congressman: Add extra seats to Supreme Court to counter Trump pick
President Donald Trump said the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate should consider his nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "without delay."
But some federal representatives from New Jersey have called on pulling the brakes on the nomination process, with one Democratic congressman calling for his party to pack the court if Trump succeeds in filling the seat before the election.
"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.
Within hours of the Supreme Court justice's death on Friday, the presidential race got more heated over the prospect of a top court confirmation battle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Friday night said he'd call a vote for whoever Trump nominates. Democrats, meanwhile, pointed out the GOP hypocrisy of rushing a Supreme Court confirmation after denying a hearing to then-President Obama's nominee nine months before the 2016 election.
The idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court got traction last year during the Democratic presidential primary. 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 former Rutgers University-Newark professor's wish to not be replaced by a potential lame duck president.
"The Senate must not move any nomination until next year," Menendez said in response to McConnell's comments.
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NJ reacts to death of Justice Ginsburg
Trump made his view clear in a tweet Saturday: “We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the Nov. 3 election. "Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Biden said.
A confirmation vote in the Senate is not guaranteed, even with a Republican majority. McConnell has not indicated if he bring a vote before the election.
Typically it takes several months to vet and hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, and time is short ahead of the election. Key senators may be reluctant to cast votes so close to the election. With a slim GOP majority, 53 seats in the 100-member chamber, Trump’s choice could afford to lose only a few.
McConnell did not specify the timing, but trying for confirmation in a post-election lame-duck session if Trump had lost to Biden or Republicans had lost the Senate would carry further political complications.
Democrats immediate denounced McConnell's move as hypocritical, pointing out that he refused to call hearings for Merrick Garland, Obama's pick, 237 days before the 2016 election. The 2020 election is 46 days away.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, in a tweet, echoed word for word what McConnell said in 2016 about the Garland nomination: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
Trump said last month that he would “absolutely” try to fill a vacancy if one came up before the end of his first term. “I would move quickly, ” Trump said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Why not? I mean, they would. The Democrats would if they were in this position.”
Trump last week added 20 names to his list of candidates he’s pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill. He contrasted his list with unnamed “radical justices” he claimed Biden would nominate who would “fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress."
Trump released a similar list in 2016 in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative credentials. Among those on his current list: Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, former Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, long a favorite of conservatives.
Four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
Among the senators to watch are Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and others.
(Includes material Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
SEE MORE: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dead at 87
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.