Former president Barack Obama has called on the Senate not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In a statement, he urged Republican senators to abide by the principle that “they invented” in 2016 when they refused to hold a hearing for the nomination of Merrick Garland before a new president was sworn in, and warned that democracy was at risk should they push ahead.
“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,” the former president wrote.
He added: “As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard.”
Obama also acknowledged that Justice Ginsburg had left instructions as to how she wanted her legacy to be honoured. Her “most fervent wish” was that her replacement be named by the next president.
Justice Ginsburg passed away on Friday at the age of 87. With the election in just 45 days, the political impact of her death is enormous.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated on Friday night that he would move forward with a hearing for a nominee from president Donald Trump. It is expected that the president will select one next week.
Democrats have called for Mr McConnell to follow his own standard and hold over hearings for a new Supreme Court Justice until after the election.
After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, the Republican dominated Senate held the seat open until 2017 when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the court.
Senator McConnell’s words are coming back to haunt him. In 2016 he said: “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice. Let's let the American people decide.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed McConnell’s words back at him in a tweet on Friday night.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. My statement: https://t.co/Wa6YcT5gDi— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 19, 2020
President Obama closes his statement by underlining what is at stake in the appointment of the next justice to the court.
He writes: “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.”