Opinion | Honor RBG’s wishes — No confirmation until inauguration

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Ron Sachs, CNP, Zuma Press | TNS

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By Devi Ruia, Senior Staff Columnist

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday at 87, due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Justice Ginsburg was a judicial, cultural and feminist icon who, as a lawyer, was instrumental in advancing legal rights for women, and whose decisions for the Supreme Court often helped to secure necessary human rights for women and minority groups. Still, she was not a perfect individual — she did not always support important causes that people like myself wished she did. It is important that we acknowledge both the good and bad of an individual and hold them accountable for their problematic views and their mistakes. She’s no “girl boss,” but Justice Ginsburg still inspired many with her impressive career and fiery dissents, even when we didn’t always agree with her.

“Growing up as a woman in America, you’re always on the lookout for anyone who’s made it, regardless of shared philosophy,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Saturday about Justice Ginsburg. “That’s how rare achieving such heights as she did is for a woman in our country, especially at the time that she achieved it.”

Justice Ginsburg has an incredibly important legacy, and she paved the way for many people, especially women, to achieve success in law and politics. It is upsetting that we can’t properly celebrate that due to the politics surrounding her death. Her death has left a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and Republicans and Democrats are fighting about when to fill that seat. A new Supreme Court justice is minted after the president nominates someone, and the Senate holds both confirmation hearings and a full floor vote.

President Donald Trump has already tweeted that he plans on nominating a new justice “without delay.” Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. This would all be incredibly upsetting to myself and fellow liberals in a normal year. However, the circumstances are different in this case because of the precedent that McConnell set for situations like this one. He would not allow former president Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to be voted on in the Senate in 2016, citing the fact that it was an election year.

The seat President Obama attempted to fill became vacant more than 200 days before the election after Justice Antonin Scalia died. We are now less than two months away from the election, and it is nakedly partisan and incredibly hypocritical for McConnell to push forward a vote on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee before inauguration day, when he would not do so for President Obama’s nominee in 2016. McConnell set a precedent, and he should follow it both because it is the right thing to do and for the sake of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Justice Ginsburg said in her final statement, dictated to her granddaughter.

Whether you agreed with Justice Ginsburg’s opinions or not, none of us can deny the impact that she has had on our country. As a lawyer, she fought to strike down laws that discriminated on the basis of sex against men and women, pushing for gender equality. Justice Ginsburg argued cases that expanded the 14th Amendment to ensure that women had equal protection under law as well. She was the second woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court, where she voted in favor of important issues like marriage equality and protecting abortion access.

We should respect her legacy by honoring her wish made in her last statement — Justice Ginsburg should not be replaced until after the election. If Joe Biden wins, he should be able to nominate her replacement after his inauguration for the Senate to vote on. If Trump wins, his nominee should be voted on after he has been reelected, not before. McConnell set a precedent that should be followed, and Justice Ginsburg deserves for her final wishes to be respected.

Unfortunately, McConnell is unlikely to have a change of heart and do the right thing in this scenario. So, it is important that we pressure other Republican senators to not vote on a nominee until we know the results of this election and either a new president is sworn in or the current one is reelected. Two Republican senators, Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have already stated that they don’t believe Trump’s nominee should be voted on before the election. We only need two more Republicans to agree to delay the voting process, assuming all of the Democratic senators will hold the line on this issue.

So, we must call our senators, especially Republicans, to ensure that they plan on voting to stop the nomination process before inauguration day and honor the precedent that Republicans set in 2016 and to honor Justice Ginsburg’s wishes. We must do this to protect her wishes and because the consequences of a right-wing court are incredibly frightening and dangerous to Americans. 

It is incredibly frustrating that the death of one individual could create such political uproar and fear for the future. It just further illustrates the problems within the political institutions in our country. Americans should not have to fear that health care access, abortion and marriage equality will be lost because a court is stacked with justices that don’t believe in these things for ideological reasons, despite precedent that justices typically favor. Americans should not risk losing human rights because one woman passed away. 

It’s more important than ever that we vote and organize for Joe Biden because human rights are at stake. and we are now, more than ever, voting for RBG’s replacement. We have to fight to protect the courts, to push Republicans to honor the precedent that they set and to respect Justice Ginsburg’s wishes. We cannot let Trump and McConnell fill this seat before the American people have a say.

Devi primarily writes about politics for The Pitt News. Write to her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter for more hot takes @DeviRuia.

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