With President Donald Trump expected to nominate a successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday evening urged Democrats in Congress to utilize “every procedural tool available to buy the country time” and ensure the vacancy is filled by the winner of the November presidential election.
“We need to make sure that we mobilize on an unprecedented scale to ensure that this vacancy is reserved for the next president.”
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“It’s extraordinarily important that we understand the stakes of this vacancy,” said the New York Democrat during a press conference alongside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is facing pressure from outside advocacy groups to do everything in his power to stop his Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), from rushing ahead with a confirmation vote on Trump’s nominee.
“Our reproductive rights are on the line. Our labor rights are on the line. Our right to healthcare is on the line. Labor and union protections are on the line. Our climate is on the line,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “With an early appointment, all of our rights—the rights that so many people died for, voting rights, reproductive rights, healthcare rights, all of those rights… are at risk with this appointment. So we need to make sure that we mobilize on an unprecedented scale to ensure that this vacancy is reserved for the next president.”
AOC: Our reproductive rights are on the line. Our labor rights are on the line. Our right to healthcare is on the line. Labor and union protections are on the line. Our climate is on the line… pic.twitter.com/AILacPUkvl
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) September 20, 2020
In a statement issued just hours after the Supreme Court announced Ginsburg’s death Friday night, McConnell vowed that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate”—but did not offer a specific timeline. Using the high court vacancy as a rallying cry to his base, Trump told supporters during a campaign event in North Carolina Saturday that “we’re going to fill the seat.”
The minority party in the Senate has a number of tools at its disposal to gum up the works in an effort to block or delay Trump’s Supreme Court pick—who, if confirmed, would drag the high court even further to the right, imperiling existing protections and threatening the prospects of future progressive change.
As David Sirota, former speechwriter for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), explained in his Too Much Information newsletter, “The Senate runs on the unanimous consent system—which basically means that to do its most basic business, all senators must consent.”
“In this situation, Senate Democrats have the power to use that system to grind everything to a halt,” wrote Sirota. “They can refuse to grant unanimous consent for the smallest things. They can force the reading of entire bills aloud. They can hold up the federal budget that the government needs to run. They can use these tactics to try to push back any confirmation hearings on a potential nominee. And they can try to do these things at least until after the next president is installed.”
If the Republican-controlled Senate—which can only afford four GOP defections if the Democratic caucus unites in opposition—succeeds in confirming Trump’s nominee either before the November election or in a lame-duck session, several Democrats have suggested that the next Senate could move to add justices to the Supreme Court.
“Mitch McConnell set the precedent,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Saturday. “No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”