The US Senate failed to agree on language for a resolution honoring the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a sign of how divided the chamber is over the Supreme Court vacancy.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to pass a resolution by unanimous consent Tuesday to commemorate the liberal icon’s life and legacy, but with language that Ginsburg’s seat not be filled until the next president is sworn in.
“Republicans came to us with this resolution, but it ignored Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish, what she called her most ‘fervent wish’ that she not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “So we simply have added it to the exact same text of the resolution the Republicans gave us.”
“All the kind words and the lamentations about Justice Ginsburg from the Republican majority will be totally empty if those Republicans ignore her dying wish and instead move to replace her with someone who will tear down everything she built,” he added.
He asked for unanimous consent to adopt his resolution, to which Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, objected. Only one senator is needed to reject the request.
In remarks explaining his decision, Cruz accused Schumer of turning the bipartisan resolution into a “partisan resolution.”
“Specifically, the Democratic leader wants to add a statement that Justice Ginsburg’s position should not be filled until a new president is installed, purportedly based on a comment Justice Ginsburg made to family members shortly before she passed,” Cruz said on the Senate floor.
Days before her death, Ginsburg dictated to her granddaughter that her “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” NPR reported.
“That, of course, is not the standard,” Cruz said. “Under the Constitution, members of the judiciary do not appoint their own successors.”
“She led an extraordinary life. She was one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever practiced,” the Texas Republican said, continuing, “Justice Ginsburg understood full well that the position being put forth by the Democratic leader is not the law and is not the Constitution.”
Cruz asked that Schumer modify his request, and remove the language, and instead take up Cruz’s resolution, which he said was modified to include quotes from Ginsburg saying she opposed increasing the number of justices on the court beyond the current nine.
A goal of some Democrats is “court packing” to try to even out the balance of the high court, which is currently tilted in favor of conservatives.
Schumer objected, adding: “I believe Justice Ginsburg would easily see through the legal sophistry of the argument of the junior senator from Texas. To turn Justice Ginsburg’s dying words against her is so, so beneath the dignity of this body.”
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Schumer’s “stunt” and said he hopes the chamber will pass a resolution honoring Ginsburg “soon.”
Schumer “decided to cheapen a solemn and unifying moment, and turn a draft unanimous resolution honoring Justice Ginsburg into one more depressing stunt for the TV cameras,” the Republican leader said.
Ginsburg, appointed to the high court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, died Friday at age 87 due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer. While the nation mourns Ginsburg’s death, the Senate is gearing up for a high stakes political battle over the future of the Supreme Court, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring President Donald Trump’s nominee to a vote on the Senate floor. Trump said he will announce his nominee on Saturday.
Democrats argue that the next president should pick Ginsburg’s replacement and point to Republicans’ actions in 2016 in blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination. Republicans, meanwhile, argue that it’s Trump’s constitutional duty to nominate someone and that unlike in 2016, they have control of both the White House and Senate.
Cruz had told Fox News just hours after the news of Ginsburg’s death broke Friday, “I believe that the President should next week nominee a successor to the court, and I think it is critical that the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day.”