News and Commentary

‘Everyday Fairness’: Obama Calls On Republicans To Leave RBG’s Seat Open Until After Election
Obama Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on Friday regarding the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that called on Republicans to keep her seat open until after the election.

Citing the precedent he claims Republicans set in 2016 by blocking his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Obama said “everyday fairness” requires the Republican-controlled Senate to refuse installing a new Supreme Court justice during a presidential election year.

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals,” Obama tweeted. “That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored.”

Obama’s statement, which also included a reflection of Ginsburg’s legacy as “a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist,” said in part:

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.

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. The questions before the Court now and in the coming years — with decisions that will determine whether or not our economy is fair, our society is just, women are treated equally, our planet survives, and our democracy endures — are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process.

According to her granddaughter, Ginsburg said days before she died, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Despite Obama’s advice and Ginsburg’s dying wish, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to fill Ginsburg’s seat immediately, tweeting, “We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed Trump’s sentiment, releasing a statement on Friday that read in part, “In the last midterm election before Justice 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.”

“By contrast, Americans reelected 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,” McConnell continued.

He added, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Related: Trump Tweets Support For Confirming New Supreme Court Justice Before Election

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