WASHINGTON, D.C. — The fight over who will fill the now-empty Supreme Court seat triggered by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is already consuming all of the oxygen on Capitol Hill.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has long prepared for this moment.
"President Trump's nominee for the vacancy will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate," said McConnell on the Senate floor Monday.
Congressional scholar Michele Swers says Democrats' best hope of staving off an additional conservative justice would be before the nomination hearings. After that, it becomes more difficult. Though McConnell says his proudest accomplishment was blocking President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland because the nomination was made in an election year, he maintains under President Trump, the circumstances are different.
"One of the most important parts of his legacy is putting more young, conservative jurors on the bench to ensure a conservative majority at the appellate and at the Supreme Court level. The most they can do in committee is try to delay a vote by a week and since we are on an extremely tight timetable, maybe that would be more effective than it might have been in the past depending on how quickly Republicans can get things together," said Swers.
"When the American people have elected a Senate majority to work closely with the sitting president, the historical record is even more overwhelmingly in favor of confirmation. Eight times in our nation's history, new vacancies have arisen and presidents have made nominations all during the election year," said McConnell.
Swers argues this episode could help McConnell politically by activating a conservative base that doesn't like Trump’s behavior or his record on the coronavirus. The weeks ahead could refocus their attention on the courts.
According to the Washington Post, about a quarter of Trump voters polled in 2018 said the Supreme Court was the reason they supported him.
"Senator McConnell has never been extremely popular but he’s always won his reelections by healthy margins and even though Amy McGrath is among the top fundraisers of all Democrats, that’s really more of a reflection of national Democrats dislike of Senator McConnell and wanting to fund anyone that’s running against him more than it is a reflection of public opinion in Kentucky," said Swers.
If McConnell cannot fill the vacancy before the election, it will become more politically difficult in a lame-duck session but Swers says she anticipates McConnell will find a way to forge ahead.