Norton, CBC Urge Senate Not to Consider Supreme Court Nominee Until Next President Inaugurated

Sep 25, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Congressional Black Caucus Judicial Nominations Task Force Chair Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today issued the following statement regarding the current Supreme Court vacancy:

“Along with Americans throughout the country, we are devastated by the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg devoted her life first to fighting for justice and equality and then on the Court to expanding equality and devoting herself to the fair application of the law. She exhibited all of the qualities that are so desperately needed on the Court today, including sound reasoning, the ability to work with those with whom one disagrees, compassion and empathy. Her death puts our nation at a critical juncture in American history regarding the future course not only for the Supreme Court, but also for the idea of the rule of law itself in our country, perhaps for decades to come. The only sound course so close to an election is for the Senate to postpone consideration of a nominee for this open seat until after the inauguration of the next president.

“As members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a primary focus, given our history in this country, is always on ensuring voting rights for all of America’s citizens. In the last few years, we witnessed the Supreme Court gut the Voting Rights Act and make participation in American democracy more difficult than at any time since the Jim Crow era. After the disastrous Shelby County decision, which demolished the enforcement and pre-clearance mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act, at least 14 states enacted voting restrictions for the first time in a presidential election for the 2016 election, and there were at least 868 fewer polling places in the 2016 election than in past elections. The Court’s majority claimed that it was unconstitutional to maintain which states needed Department of Justice approval before changing their voting laws based on the states discriminating at the time the law was written, claiming that some may have improved since then. However, as Justice Ginsburg expressed in her dissent in that case, it is precisely because of the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement mechanisms that those states have moved away from discrimination and more Americans are able to vote. The evidence since then has only reinforced her accurate assessment.

“We must allow the people to decide this election before the Senate acts on any nominee, especially considering that voting in the election has already begun. It is also the epitome of hypocrisy for the President and Senate Republicans to consider a nominee less than a month and a half before the election when they left vacant for 10 months the seat that President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, should have been allowed to fill. This was the longest vacancy on a nine-member Supreme Court in American history.

“Republicans try to claim that their gaining a net of two Senate seats in the 2018 midterms somehow qualifies them to confirm whomever Trump nominates, despite the clear rule they themselves established in 2016. First, this makes no sense because their argument against allowing President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, even a hearing was purely on the grounds that it was an election year and that the people should have a say. However, even if this were a valid point, it should be noted that in the midterms, Democrats and the Independents who caucus with Democrats won 24 of the 35 Senate seats that were up for election and received 17 million more votes than the Republicans received. If anybody has a mandate on this issue, it is the Democrats.

“It is particularly disconcerting that so many Senate Republicans have indicated that they will confirm whoever the President nominates, even before knowing who the nominee is. This, of course, comes after refusing even to hold a hearing on President Obama’s nominee in 2016 before knowing who the president would nominate.

“Our Republican Senate colleagues would have the American people be forced to live under a new justice nominated by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by a Republican Senate that represents a minority of America, and begin doing so within days of the next election. Too much is at stake. We cannot let this happen.”

 

###