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Senate Republicans Split Over Whether They Would Fill Supreme Court Vacancy Before Election
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: United States Supreme Court (Front L-R) Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., (Back L-R) Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh pose for their official portrait at the in the East Conference Room at the Supreme Court building November 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Earlier this month, Chief Justice Roberts publicly defended the independence and integrity of the federal judiciary against President Trump after he called a judge who had ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge.” “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.” (Photo by
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some say yes, others say no.

That’s where things stand on whether Senate Republicans would move quickly to replace a Supreme Court justice should a vacancy suddenly arise before the November election.

“Oh, we’d fill it,” Senate Majority Leader  Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last year. Asked again in February, McConnell said, “If you’re asking me a hypothetical … we would fill it.”

But Republicans in the chamber refused to allow a nominee to move forward in 2016 after the death of the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) blocked Merrick Garland, whom President Obama nominated in March, saying it was too close to the election.

That’s why another Republican would oppose the move.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) says it would be a “double standard” for Republicans to push a replacement should a vacancy come up.

“When Republicans held off Merrick Garland it was because nine months prior to the election was too close, we needed to let people decide. And I agreed to do that. If we now say that months prior to the election is OK when nine months was not, that is a double standard and I don’t believe we should do it,” she said, according to The Hill. “So I would not support it.”

It gets even more complicated should President Trump lose on Nov. 3 and a vacancy arose before he would be due to leave office, Jan. 20, 2021.

“It would be outrageous to go back on their purported principles,” Daniel Goldberg, legal director of the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, a liberal advocacy group, told The Hill. “It was not just keeping Merrick Garland off the bench, it was keeping a highly regarded, eminently qualified jurist who enjoyed broad bipartisan support, who was recommended by [former Utah Republican Sen.] Orrin Hatch, off the bench,” he said.

Speculation over the possibility of a vacancy resurfaced last week after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, announced that her cancer had returned and she had undergone treatment as recently as last month. The Democrat-appointed justice was also hospitalized last week for what was described as a “minimally invasive nonsurgical procedure” to revise a bile duct stent.

“Justice Ginsburg was admitted to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland early this morning for treatment of a possible infection,” the Supreme Court said in a statement. “She was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. last night after experiencing fever and chills.”

“She underwent an endoscopic procedure at Johns Hopkins this afternoon to clean out a bile duct stent that was placed last August,” the statement added. “The Justice is resting comfortably and will stay in the hospital for a few days to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment.”

Ginsburg started receiving chemotherapy in May, just as the court began announcing decisions. “Ginsburg issued a statement on July 17 saying that a medical scan in February revealed lesions on her liver, which a subsequent biopsy determined were cancerous,” the Associated Press reported.

The lesions are the fifth time Ginsburg has dealt with cancer since 1999, when she first underwent surgery for colorectal cancer. Surgeries for tumors on her pancreas and lung took place in 2009 and 2018, respectively, and Ginsburg underwent radiation therapy for a new growth on her pancreas last year.

In her statement, Ginsburg, the oldest member of America’s highest court, said “I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that.”

RELATED: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Waited 4 Months To Say Her Cancer Had Returned

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