Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday at the age of 87, was a giant of American public life. Tributes have poured in, mourners have gathered at the court in Washington, its steps strewn with flowers.
Tributes and memorials will continue. But now she belongs to the ages, the politics of the Trump age can – and will – take things from here.
“My most fervent wish,” the justice said days before her death on Friday, “is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
She may not be, but the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump are going to give it a damned good try.
There are 45 days to go until the election and confirmations are lengthy and fraught things, as Brett Kavanaugh proved in 2018. But even should Trump lose to Joe Biden on 3 November, and the Democrats take back the Senate, there is a lame duck period until the inauguration in late January. Republicans in the Senate require a simple majority to put a fifth solid conservative – if you take Chief Justice John Roberts for a wobbler, as some on the right do – on the highest court.
The statements and views of key Republican senators now come under the spotlight.
Lindsey Graham, chair of the judiciary committee and an avid Trump ally facing a tough re-election fight in South Carolina, said this in 2016, when McConnell was refusing to give Barack Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia, Merrick Garland, even so much as a hearing:
I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president … 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.’”
Lisa Murkowski of Atlanta, a moderate who has gone against Trump before, said this shortly before Ginsburg’s death: “I would not vote to confirm a supreme court nominee. We are 50-some days away from an election.”
Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate who has expressed concerns about any threat to abortion rights, is well down in her re-election race.
Mitt Romney of Utah isn’t up for re-election but he was the only Republican to vote to impeach Trump. He will be watched closely too.
Of course, the word of the average Republican senator – the average politician, to be fair – isn’t worth the tweet it’s written in or the microphone it’s hurriedly spoken into. A battle royale is on the way in Washington. Here’s Lauren Gambino: