President Trump's announcement of Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court adds to furious debate, with the Republican Party vowing to seat a new justice quickly as Dems call them hypocrites.
Congressional Democrats urged the GOP to wait until after the general election, now just 38 days away, to allow the American public to decide who should nominate the next Supreme Court justice – a sentiment that Ginsburg reportedly expressed.
Democrats have hinted at their strategy to fight back against what will be Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee.
“Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly told members of the Democratic Caucus last Saturday.
“Nothing is off the table,” he added.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made headlines this week by hinting at one strategy that Democrats could take to block Trump’s nominee – impeachment.
In an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Pelosi was pressed on whether or not Democrats would use impeachment as a tactic to delay the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice – the Speaker did not reject the idea.
“Well, we have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country,” Pelosi said. “This president has threatened to not even accept the results of the election with statements that he and his henchmen have made.”
“Right now, our main goal and I think Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want that to be, would be to protect the integrity of the election,” Pelosi added.
In 2016, the GOP blocked President Obama’s attempt to nominate Merrick Garland, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February that year -- citing concerns that it was an election year.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy immediately pushed back, and said “She may think she has a quiver. We do too.”
“I’ll make you this one promise…if she tries to move for an impeachment based upon the president following the Constitution, I think there will be a move on the floor to have her no longer — on the question of her being speaker,” McCarthy said during a press briefing Wednesday.
Trump said he welcomes any attempts at a second round of impeachment, telling a crowd during a rally in Ohio this week, "Go ahead…I want them to do it.”
Democrats also threatened to add more seats to the Supreme Court should they take back the Senate.
There are currently no limits on the number of justices that can sit on the Supreme Court at any given time, though nine judges has become the norm for the last 151 years.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., released a tweet threatening this move after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the GOP intended to move forward despite his previous qualms with it being an election year.
‘‘If Sen. McConnell and @SenateGOP were to force through a nominee during the lame-duck session—before a new Senate and President can take office—then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the Supreme Court,” Nadler wrote.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, echoed this suggestion, and wrote that “Mitch McConnell set the precedent.”
‘‘No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If [Senate Majority Leader McConnell] violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.’’
Supreme Court justices are supposed to be nonpartisan, but the White House and Congress have traditionally appointed justices they believe will interpret the Constitution in a manner that is in line with their political beliefs.
There are currently five justices appointed by Republican presidents, while there are now only three justices confirmed under Democratic presidents.
If Trump is able to successfully get his nominee across the finish line, the standing would be six to three, with twice as many conservative justices.
Republicans have pushed against the call to add more seats to the Supreme Court, condemning it as an attempt to “pack the court,” though Democratic lawmakers have not clarified how many seats they think should be added.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, submitted legislation earlier this week that calls for an official declaration that permits only nine judges at a time, in an attempt to prevent any party from “packing” the court.
Democratic institutions also invested millions into state legislation elections this fall, as they push to flip red seats to blue.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) announced Friday their plan to spend $16 million on down-ballot elections, contributing to their $35 million spent this cycle.
The funds will be spent attempting to get Democrats elected in 17 battleground states including Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas.
The effort could prove effective if they are able to flip seats in the Senate and gain back control. Democrats would still have to find a way of preventing the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice during the lame-duck session following the election, as the new Senate freshman class will not be instated until Jan. 3, 2021.
Mark Kelly, who is running as a Democrat in a Special Election in Arizona against incumbent Republican candidate Martha McSally, could be appointed as early as the end of November, if he wins.
This would mean the current 53-47 Republican controlled Senate would lose a seat, and potentially a vote in the confirmation process.
Republican sens. Susan Collins, Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, have said they do not support the rush to instate a new Supreme Court justice prior to the general election – though neither of them have confirmed how they intend to vote.
The Senate would need to lose one more moderate Republican vote in order for the Democrats to sucessfully block the confirmation. Otherwise Vice President Mike Pence will break the tied vote and confirm the appointment of the justice.
Conservative political groups have said they plan to invest up to $35 million in supporting Trump’s third Supreme Court pick.
Trump is expected to announce his nominee Saturday evening.