Don't Fill the SCOTUS Seat
“Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court”.
Following the unfortunate death of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa published this blistering statement in an opinion piece submitted to the Washington Post. These Republican leaders set a precedent for appointments of supreme court justices during the fourth year of a presidential tenure, and the hypocrisy shown by them naught but 4 years later is disgusting. The libersal stance on this issue was put best by long serving senate Republican Lindsay Graham when he said, “Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination [...] And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right”. We can not defy the precedent set by senate Republicans in 2016, and we must allow the next elected president to appoint the next lifelong member of the Supreme Court.
On September 18th, Americans from both sides of the political spectrum mourned the death of a true icon of the legal world. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a record breaker throughout her lifetime, with some standout moments being when she topped her class at Harvard while taking care of a child and a sickly husband, and when she became only the second woman in history appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Her sudden death shocked the country, and optimistic pundits hoped that the gaping hole left by her departure would be filled by the next president. However, against her dying wishes, Donald Trump went on to appoint Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, who, as of the time of writing, is currently two days into her senate confirmation which seems like nothing more than a formality.
This brazen appointment of this new justice is significant for 2 reasons, firstly due to the extreme levels of hypocrisy it displays, and secondly due to the extremely contrasting standpoints of Amy Coney Barrett and the woman she is replacing on an array of important issues.
It is the president’s constitutional right to appoint a supreme court justice, if a seat becomes open during their tenure. This message has been conveyed by Republican pundits for multiple weeks now, ever since Mitch McConnell controversially stated that the Republicans would attempt to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. This semantics argument also seems to be the only real contention the Republicans have, with almost no other talking points being brought up by the incumbent president’s camp in relation to the filling of the seat. While this statement is factually correct, we must look at the context in which it has been applied to understand why this argument is invalid. By the logic of this argument, Barack Obama was within his jurisdiction as president to appoint Merrick Garland to the supreme court; however, Merrick was not allowed a confirmation hearing by Mitch McConnell. Where was “the president’s constitutional right” then? Was he not denied the chance to appoint a supreme court justice due to the fact that the United States was in an election year?
This lax application of laws shows why the constitutional rights argument falls through under even the tiniest bit of scrutiny. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett stands in stark contrast to everything the Republican party said in 2014, and this act of hypocrisy has significantly decreased government legitimacy. As stated by Stanford, a lack of government legitimacy contributes to several negative political phenomena for democratic regimes. A lack of government legitimacy leads to citizens being less likely to accept election results, cooperate with government officials, and maintain order. By besmirching the reputation of the American government through an act of heinous hypocrisy, filling the empty SCOTUS seat may lead to several disastrous consequences for our country as a whole.
A further issue is revealed when viewing the differences in opinion between Amy Coney Barrett and her predecessor on some of the most contentious issues of our day. As reported by law professor Lara Bazelon for the New York Times, “Judge Barrett, who is on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has impeccable intellectual credentials — and a record that stands in stark contrast to Justice Ginsburg’s. She has written that abortion is “always immoral,” and joined two dissents against decisions supporting the right to choose [...] Judge Barrett dissented from a ruling banning people with felony convictions from possessing firearms, and publicly criticized Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for voting with the high court’s liberal bloc to uphold the Affordable Care Act, saying he pushed the statute “beyond its plausible meaning” to save it”. Amy Coney Barrett agreed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg on nearly nothing, and with the current composition of the supreme court, Barrett would give the Republicans a strong majority, which can have disastrous consequences for the people of this country. Women may lose their rights to abortion, members of the LGBTQIA+ community may have cretain rights restricted, children may lose the rights to be safe from gun violence, and the most vulnerable members of our society may lose their rights to affordable healthcare. Considering the momentous effect that this appointment would have on the outlook of our country, it is only right to wait the 20 days before the next presidential election to see who gets to appoint the next justice.
Mitch McConnell put it best when he said that the American people should get to decide who appoints the next lifelong justice to the supreme court. We must follow the precedent set only 4 years ago and abstain from appointing a new justice until the people have had their say.