Now a key vacancy opens on the Tribunal and a political war breaks out. Who wins and who loses? Some keys.
The death of the Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg it leaves the US Senate on uncharted political terrain, unprecedented in recent years for a high court vacancy so close to a presidential election.
House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged in a statement Friday night that “President Donald Trump’s candidate will stand for a vote in the United States Senate.” But he did not say when or when how would it happen, and there is a great uncertainty about the process.
Here, some clues about what is to come, in the midst of a strong political struggle.
-Can the vacancy be filled before the November elections?
Yes, but that would require the process to advance at a dizzying pace. Nominations to the Supreme Court typically take around 70 days to pass through the Senate, and the latest, Brett Kavanaugh’s, took longer. The presidential elections will be held in 45 days. However, there are no rules outlining how long the process should take once President Donald Trump announces his election, and some have moved on faster than others. It all comes down to politics and votes.
-What is needed to confirm a nominee?
-Just a simple majority. Republicans control the Senate by a 53-47 margin, which means that, even losing three votes, they could confirm to the judge of their choice if Vice President Mike Pence breaks the tie at 50. Supreme Court nominations used to be need 60 upvotes for confirmation if any senators objected, but McConnell changed the rules in 2017 to allow them with just 51. He did so when Democrats threatened to obstruct Trump’s first hopeful. Neil Gorsuch.
-How does the electoral campaign influence?
– Republicans have to defend 25 of the 38 seats at stake in November, and many of their most vulnerable members have been eager to finish the fall session and return to their constituencies to campaign. The Senate recess is scheduled for mid-October, although the schedule could change.
Despite this, many of the senators in question may be reluctant to vote for the nominee before confronting their constituents, and their opinion could ultimately determine the timing of the process. McConnell is one of those who must revalidate his seat this year.
-Can the Senate fill the vacancy after the elections?
-Yes, Republicans could vote for Trump’s nominee in the sessions held after the November elections and before the new Congress takes office on January 3. Regardless of what happens in the presidential elections, Republicans are expected to remain in front of the upper house during this period.
The Senate could have until January 20, the date the president takes office, to act on Trump’s nominee. If the Republican president wins re-election and his candidate was not confirmed prior to taking office, he can run again as soon as his second term begins.
-How does the process work?
When a vacancy remains on the Supreme Court, the president is authorized by the Constitution to nominate someone to fill it. It is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the applicant and hold confirmation hearings. Once the committee gives the green light, the full Senate takes the final vote. This process goes through several time-consuming steps. Traditionally, senators want to meet and evaluate nominees themselves, which takes weeks of meetings on Capitol Hill.
And all this assuming the process runs smoothly. In 2018, Kavanaugh’s confirmation took more weeks than expected after Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually abusing her when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denied the accusation was confirmed by the Senate by 51 votes in favor and 49 against.