When the GOP-led Senate used its constitutional powers to block the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg admitted that the president had the power to nominate a candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy any time during his four-year tenure and that the Senate had every right to confirm the nomination or not.
The vacancy Obama chose Garland to fill was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016; President Barack Obama nominated Garland in mid-March.
Ginsburg gave a speech at Georgetown Law School on Sept. 7, 2016, after which she took questions. A member of the audience asked, “I was wondering if you thought there were any valid constitutional arguments that would prevent President Obama from filling Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court?”
Ginsburg answered, “As you know, the president has the authority to name appointees to the Supreme Court, but he has to do so with the advice and consent of the Senate. And if the Senate does not act, as this current Senate is not acting, what can be done about it? Even if you could conceive of a testing lawsuit, what would the response be? ‘Well, you want us to vote? So we’ll vote no.’ But I do think that cooler heads will prevail; I hope sooner rather than later. The president is elected for four years not three years, so the powers that he has in year three continue into year four and maybe some members of the Senate will wake up and appreciate that that’s how it should be.”
RBG: "The President is elected for 4 years not 3 years, so the powers that he has in year 3 continue into year 4. Maybe some members of the Senate will wake up & appreciate that that's how it should be." pic.twitter.com/xU2GucJwNk
— Jewish Deplorable 🇺🇸 (@TrumpJew) September 21, 2020
In the wake of Ginsburg’s death on Friday, various Democrats have trumpeted their opposition to President Donald Trump nominating a justice to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg’s passing; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) huffed to ABC anchor and former Bill Clinton press secretary George Stephanopoulos that Democrats had “arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” when he mentioned the possibility of the House impeaching Trump or Attorney General William Barr as a way of stalling and preventing the Senate from acting on the nomination.
Per the same suggestion, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), answered, “We must consider, again, all of the tools available to our disposal, and that all of these options should be entertained and on the table.” Former President Bill Clinton added regarding Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moving forward with a nominee this week, “Well, of course it’s superficially hypocritical, isn’t it?”
Clinton continued, “I mean, Mitch McConnell wouldn’t give President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing ten months before the presidential election. And that meant that we went a long time with eight judges on the court. This is what they do. I think that, you know, [both for] Senator McConnell and President Trump, their first value is power, and they’re trying to jam the court with as many ideological judges as they can.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reputedly threatened that “nothing is off the table” if Republicans held a vote on a new Supreme Court Justice before the election. He was echoed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who tweeted, “If Republicans recklessly & reprehensibly force a SCOTUS vote before the election—nothing is off the table.”