"If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term and the primary process is started, we will wait to the next election. And I've got a pretty good chance of being the judiciary [chairman]... Hold the tape." - Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in October 2018.
Two years later, Graham is now the Senate Judiciary Chairman. We held the tape, but nevertheless, the Republican Party hypocritically persists. Since their superpower appears to be a ridiculous capacity for shamelessness, their past words and blatant blockade of Judge Merrick Garland's 2016 Supreme Court nomination aren't factoring into their calculations. Republicans, who have benefited from minority rule through gerrymandering and the unequal makeup of the electoral college, are moving fast to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for a generation.
2020 has been the embodiment of Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and it all appears to be going wrong at the same time. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a gut punch to a country already beaten down by Covid-19, a recession, racial unrest, and a president rampaging like an orange bull in a China shop making everything worse.
This vacancy almost guarantees a 6-3 conservative majority, putting women's reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), immigrant rights, the rights of people of color, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and potentially the outcome of the 2020 election in jeopardy. Of those under consideration to fill Ginsburg's seat, 48-year-old Judge Amy Coney Barrett poses the most extreme threat to those issues so, of course, President Trump has just announced she is his pick.
In a February 2016 CBS interview, Barrett discussed the blockade of Judge Merrick Garland's nomination. Barrett said if Garland replaced Justice Scalia, his seat would've been "replaced by someone who could dramatically flip the balance of power on the court." In those remarks, Barrett essentially described the nature of her potential 2020 confirmation to the Supreme Court. Barrett's ideological leanings and record could not be further from everything Ginsburg stood for. Barrett has taken a number of stances on the ACA, immigration, gun reform, LGBTQ rights, and abortion that has raised alarms among activists.
In 2015, Barrett signed a letter that proclaimed marriage was an "indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman," a move that concerned LGBTQ activists. In 2017, Barrett criticized the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ACA, stating that "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute."
After being appointed to the 7th circuit court by President Trump in November 2017, Barrett dissented in a case striking down the Trump Administration's "public charge" rule which made it more difficult for vulnerable immigrants on social programs to get green cards. Barrett also penned a 37-page dissent arguing a Wisconson law that banned non-violent felons from obtaining guns was unconstitutional.
Barrett's stance on abortion appears to be the most staunch, making it clear that she believes life begins at conception. In her writings, Barrett has cited Catholic teachings that abortion is "always immoral." Once on the court, she dissented in a ruling that blocked an Indiana law that required parental consent for abortions and joined a dissent arguing that states should be able to restrict certain abortions when they're "based on race, sex, or disability."
20 million Americans could lose healthcare if the ACA is invalidated by the Supreme Court in the DOJ backed case set to be heard in November. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, states will be able to implement harsh abortion restrictions, which disproportionately affect low-income women. If Barrett is seated before the election, she could be a decisive factor in whatever post-election lawsuits President Trump brings to challenge the results. Trump has already openly said he wants this seat filled for that reason.
Some argue it would be smarter to wait until after election day, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appears to have the votes to push this confirmation through before election day. Democrats don't have four Republican dissenters.
While Republicans believe this will help Trump recover some members of his base, this could backfire spectacularly. Confirming a fierce anti-abortion Justice will do nothing to close the suburban women gap Trump has with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. This could have a similar effect that the pre-midterm confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh had, but with presidential-level turnout.
These actions by Republicans are also bringing ideas like ending the filibuster and court-packing into the discussion, with Democrats internally grappling with the possible strategy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated "nothing is off the table."
Poll-after-poll has indicated that a majority of Americans want the winner of the next election to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and the issue of the Supreme Court is now more important to Democrats than Republicans. If you need empirical evidence to back those polls, look no further than ActBlue, which rose a record $91 million for Democrats in the 28 hours after Ginsburg's death. Early voting lines around the US are also massive.
In denying the Notorious RBG's dying wish by rushing a new Justice into this vacancy before the election, Republicans may also be denying themselves their Senate majority and putting the nail in President Trump's already dying re-election prospects.