In paying tribute to the service and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former President Barack Obama also called on Senate Republicans to wait to fill the seat until after inauguration day.
“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” Obama wrote.
“A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment.
“The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle. As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard,” Obama wrote.
Obama called Ginsburg, who died Friday at the age of 87, an inspiration who “fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals.”
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“But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored,” Obama wrote in a statement, an apparent reference to Ginsburg’s comments, reported by NPR, to her granddaughter that she did not wish to be replaced until a new president is installed.
The questions before the high court, and the ones to come “are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process,” the former president said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, did not allow a hearing on Obama’s nominee for the high court, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
On Friday, hours after news of Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said in a statement that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
He argued that the situations in 2016 and 2020 are different.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” he said.
McConnell continued, “By contrast, Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday called Ginsburg a hero, but in comments and a Tweet said the choice on her successor should be made by whoever wins the presidential election.
“Let me be clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg,” Biden tweeted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also tweeted Friday: “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.”
The line was the exact same phrase McConnell used in 2016 to block Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Scalia.