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LETTER: Ginsburg’s Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled until after the election



fall2020letter

As COVID-19 infection cases are on the rise across the country and negotiations for passing a second stimulus check have been dragging on, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has found something apparently worth speed in the Senate.

With the death of visionary Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell has found an opportunity to rush through his third Supreme Court nominee under President Donald Trump. 

This is a stark reversal from his previous stance on such appointments to the high court during the waning days of a president’s term. When Justice Antonin Scalia died early in 2016, it was 269 days from the Nov. 8 election. McConnell was adamant at the time that this was far too close to the election for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to be confirmed before the Senate. 

However, his view seems to have changed in the intervening four years

Ginsburg passed with 46 days until the November election. It is now a different country than the one in which Scalia’s vacancy was created, with a pandemic claiming the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, and even reaching into the White House to infect the president and first lady. Now, with uncharacteristic expediency, McConnell believes it to be justified to push through Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Even as two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who must approve Judge Barrett have contracted COVID-19, McConnell seems happy to proceed.

What is worse, Barrett has been noted as markedly critical of previous Supreme Court rulings regarding the Affordable Care Act, which provides health care to an estimated 20 million Americans. 

Against his own precedent, and with multiple senators falling ill, McConnell is attempting to push through a Supreme Court nominee who could potentially strip health care from Americans during a global pandemic. This is an abandonment of leadership and should not stand. The Senate must wait until after the election for a nominee to go through the confirmation process, both as a matter of fairness and as a caution for health.

Ethan Dawson (he/him) is a first-year student at IU Maurer School of Law, and an Executive Board Representative of IU Maurer’s chapter of the American Constitution Society.

The American Constitution Society is one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations that is dedicated to realizing the promises of the U.S. Constitution.

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