Republicans are moving with dispatch to nominate and vote on a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps before the Nov. 3 election. This is within their constitutional authority, and it also makes the most sense for the courts and any post-election controversy.
Lamar Alexander, a senior member of the Senate GOP conference, put the argument as succinctly as anyone on Sunday:
“No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year. The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it. Going back to George Washington, the Senate has confirmed many nominees to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year. It has refused to confirm several when the President and Senate majority were of different parties. Senator [Mitch] McConnell is only doing what Democrat leaders have said they would do if the shoe were on the other foot.”
Mr. Alexander is leaving the Senate at the end of this Congress and thus has no personal political stake in a confirmation. But he is an institutionalist who cares about the reputations of the Senate and the High Court.
President Trump says he’ll announce his nominee at the end of this week following some days honoring Justice Ginsburg at the Capitol. The names being floated are all qualified, though Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been the most thoroughly vetted and has demonstrated her intellectual chops in some 100 opinions on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Based on that and other evidence, she’d be a worthy addition to the Court.
As for the argument that this is all moving too fast, there are 43 days until Nov. 3. John Paul Stevens was confirmed in 19 days, Sandra Day O’Connor in 33, and Justice Ginsburg in 42. The Senate can do the job in a month if it focuses on the task.
One good argument for a vote before Nov. 3 is having a full Court of nine Justices in the event of a contested election (see nearby). The country would not be well served by 4-4 votes that allow disputes to be settled by a cacophony of lower courts. The Court itself will suffer if it looks dysfunctional on the crucial legal questions surrounding the legitimacy of an election. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes to confirm, the case for doing so before Nov. 3 is compelling.
— The Wall Street Journal