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As Trump considers a nominee to succeed Ginsburg, major political battles await

Richard Reeve
Updated: September 19, 2020 10:59 PM
Created: September 19, 2020 10:32 PM

With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, the political battle has begun. 

"Justice Ginsburg's passing yesterday has ignited a political firestorm,” says University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs. “We are looking at one of the great battles coming up over the next six weeks.”

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At the center of that firestorm is the question of who should be Ginsburg’s successor. 

President Donald Trump says he’ll announce a nominee by next week, and that he’s nominating a woman. 

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"I don't think the president has any choice but to get the nominee put forth in front of the senate and ideally confirmed,” says U.S. Senate candidate former 2nd District Republican Congressman Jason Lewis. 

Lewis is now in a race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith. 

He’s calling for a quick Senate vote in favor of a Trump nominee, in part because of the upcoming presidential election. 

"So can you imagine the situation where you've got case after case a la Bush versus Gore as a 4-4 tie?” Lewis said. “You'd literally have no resolution about who wins the presidential race.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, is not mincing words. 

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” he says. 

McConnell: Senate will vote on Trump court pick

But Democrats are saying not so fast. 

"It's an example of rank hypocrisy, and a blatant power grab,” Smith said. “I think that it is essential that the Senate — that Mitch McConnell — not push through the nomination.”

Smith says with the election less than 50 days away, whoever wins the presidential race should pick a new nominee for the high court. 

"This is a vitally important decision, and the American people are currently voting right now for the next president of the United States,” she says. “The American people should have a voice here.”

Jacobs says Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to block a Trump pick. 

But there may be issues on the Republican side.  

“There is a question whether the Republicans are going to have enough votes,” he says. “They have a three-seat majority, and the vice-president is a tie-breaking vote. They’ve already had several different defections.” 

Sens. Lisa Murkowski R-Alaska, and Susan Collins R-Maine, have indicated they will vote no. 

GOP senators confront past comments on Supreme Court vote

He points out that McConnell’s plan for a vote is a reversal of his 2016 decision to refuse to consider Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the high court. 

Garland was nominated by the White House on March 16 of that year. 

But there was no vote before the election in November. 

McConnell refused to hold hearings until a new president took office in January of 2017. 

"He said, 'Let voters speak and then we can come back to this,'" Jacobs said. “Now he's taking the opposite position. It's clearly hypocritical."

And now, multiple political battles lay ahead: the high court nomination, the presidential election and several close races in the Senate that will determine if the GOP will keep its majority. 

Jacobs is expecting a lot of fireworks. 

“Nominating a replacement and confirming that replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not a done deal,” he said. “We are looking at a massive political battle that is going to bring together the politics that always goes around a Supreme Court nomination and confirmation, along with the presidential election.”

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