Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who refused to consider former president Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in the months leading up to the 2016 election, vowed Friday to hold a vote on President Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement hours after the court announced Ginsburg’s death.

The statement marked the first salvo in what is certain to be a fierce political fight over whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate decide Ginsburg’s successor. Replacing Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberal stalwarts, with a new right-leaning justice would give the court’s conservatives a firm 6-to-3 majority. Democrats have called for the Senate to wait until after the presidential election.

Ginsburg, too, said she did not want her seat to be filled until after the election, according to NPR. Days before she died in her Washington home of complications from metastatic pancreas cancer, she told her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

The latest:
  • President Trump reacted to Ginsburg’s death after leaving the stage at a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minn. “She led an amazing life,” he said. “What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not. … I’m actually saddened to hear that.”
  • Crowds gathered at the Supreme Court, where the American flag flew at half-staff.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned the Republican-controlled Senate not to hold an election-year confirmation vote to fill Ginsburg’s seat.
  • In a private letter to GOP senators, McConnell urged his Republican colleagues not to “prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that Americans “should have a voice in the selection” of Ginsburg’s replacement. “Therefore,” he said, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
  • Bill Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg, said in a statement that her “27 years on the Court exceeded even my highest expectations when I appointed her.”
  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the nation “lost a jurist of historic stature.”
September 19, 2020 at 12:08 AM EDT
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Obama to GOP senators: ‘Apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous’

By J. Freedom du Lac

Former president Barack Obama paid tribute to Ginsburg in a statement late Friday but also called on Senate Republicans to avoid voting on Trump’s nominee until after the election.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals,” he said. “That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored” — a reference to Ginsburg’s comment days before her death that “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Obama continued: “Four-and-a-half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in. A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.

“As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard. The questions before the Court now and in the coming years — with decisions that will determine whether or not our economy is fair, our society is just, women are treated equally, our planet survives, and our democracy endures — are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process.”

September 18, 2020 at 11:53 PM EDT
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In final public statement, Ginsburg says advocating for women’s rights was her ‘great good fortune’

By Marisa Iati

In what appears to be her last public statement, Ginsburg said she was lucky to fight for women’s rights alongside generations of others who did so when society was not yet willing to change.

“It was my great good fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the long effort to place equal citizenship stature for women on the basic human rights agenda,” Ginsburg said in response to receiving the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal on Thursday. “In that regard, I was scarcely an innovator.”

Ginsburg said that when she worked as a lawyer in the late 1960s and the 1970s, people generally responded well to arguments that the world would benefit from removing barriers to women’s participation in fields ranging from bartending to piloting planes.

“Helping to explain what was wrong about the closed-door era was enormously satisfying,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg noted in her statement that former Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy had also received Liberty Medals from the National Constitution Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that aims to promote education and debate about the U.S. Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.

The Constitution Center plans to distribute $100,000 that accompanies the Liberty Medal to charities that Ginsburg designated, she said. She did not identify the organizations.

September 18, 2020 at 11:50 PM EDT
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Analysis: The GOP senators who will decide on Ginsburg’s vacancy

By Aaron Blake

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday, leaving a crucial Supreme Court vacancy on the eve of the 2020 election. And for the better part of four years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has paved the way for doing what the GOP declared should not be done in 2016: Filling the vacancy in a presidential election year.

There is almost no doubt that McConnell will do whatever he can to fill the seat before the new Congress is seated in January — as he affirmed Friday night — especially given the stakes and Democrats’ possible Senate takeover. And he certainly has the amount of time he needs to make it happen.

The question is whether he’ll have the votes.

September 18, 2020 at 11:32 PM EDT
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McConnell tells GOP senators to ‘keep your powder dry’ on vacancy

By Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey

In a private letter circulated to his GOP colleagues Friday night, McConnell urged Republican senators to avoid locking themselves into a position on whether they would support taking up Ginsburg’s successor during this election year.

In the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post, McConnell noted that Senate Republicans are going to “come under tremendous pressure from the press” to announce a stance on how to handle the nomination.

“For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you all to keep your powder dry,” McConnell told the 52 other GOP senators. “This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret."

He also stressed in the letter that there is sufficient time to fill the vacancy this year, even though it is already mid-September. If Republicans lose control of the Senate in November, they will hold the majority until Jan. 3, when the new senators will be sworn in.

September 18, 2020 at 11:22 PM EDT
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Ginsburg’s death jolts chaotic presidential race as both sides prepare for Supreme Court battle

By Philip Rucker, Matt Viser, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey

An already chaotic and corrosive presidential campaign was jolted anew Friday night by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as a sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court just 46 days before the election immediately galvanized both political parties.

The impending fight for the Supreme Court thrusts issues of civil rights, abortion rights and health care to the forefront of a campaign that had been centered on the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and race relations, and it could boost voter enthusiasm and turnout numbers.

Democratic and Republican leaders assembled for all-out political war. Despite Ginsburg’s dying wish that her successor not be determined until after the election, White House officials said President Trump is preparing to nominate a replacement in the coming days. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that nominee would receive a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate — a departure from McConnell’s refusal to consider a nominee chosen by then-president Barack Obama before the 2016 election.

September 18, 2020 at 11:16 PM EDT
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Lindsey Graham hasn’t said if he would support nomination before election

By Meryl Kornfield

As Republican leaders have begun to declare their support for Trump moving forward quickly to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — who has said in public, on multiple occasions, that the nomination should wait until after the election — has not yet said which way he will lean.

Graham, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee would preside over confirmation hearings, reacted to Ginsburg’s death Friday, calling her “a trailblazer ... who served with honor and distinction.”

But Graham, who is up for reelection in November, did not share whether he would support or oppose proceedings before the election. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ginsburg’s seat.

In 2016, Graham made clear that he did not think a president should make a nomination in the last year of their first term in office. During a Judiciary Committee meeting, Graham said: “I want you to use my words against me, if there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

During Trump’s presidency, Graham was asked again: He reaffirmed that the next president should make the pick, justifying his treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, who didn’t even get a committee hearing in the Senate.

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait for the next election,” he said at the Atlantic Festival in 2018. “Hold the tape.”

September 18, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT
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Analysis: Why McConnell intends to confirm a new justice now, when he wouldn’t in 2016

By Amber Phillips

Let’s get the rules out of the way first: The Senate can fill Ginsburg’s seat as soon as President Trump nominates someone. There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a Supreme Court vacancy from being filled, regardless of how close to an election it opens up.

Precedent in such a situation is different. Until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked President Obama’s 2016 pick nine months before the election, this hadn’t been done very often, says Russell Wheeler, an expert on Supreme Court history with the Brookings Institution.

McConnell was forging his own path, for obvious political reasons. It was a gamble that worked. Trump won the election, Republicans kept control of the Senate, and they have since filled two Supreme Court vacancies.

McConnell has every intention of taking advantage of a vacant Supreme Court seat again, with his party in power. He can’t say he is flip-flopping on his 2016 position about election-year court vacancies because doing so benefits him politically now. So he has offered some logic that does little disguise its political convenience: This time is different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which wasn’t the case when there was a vacancy in the last year of Obama’s presidency.

September 18, 2020 at 10:56 PM EDT
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Republican senators diverge on whether Senate should vote on Trump nominee to Supreme Court

By Marisa Iati

Hours after Ginsburg’s death was announced, some Republican senators weighed in on whether the Senate should vote on a potential Supreme Court justice nominated by Trump.

The issue is particularly salient in light of the refusal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to let the chamber consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016. Senate Republicans argued the next president should fill the empty seat.

On Friday, Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) called on the Senate to vote on a replacement for Ginsburg before the presidential election. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who Trump said is on his shortlist for a Supreme Court vacancy, told Fox News host Sean Hannity that Trump should nominate a new justice soon, Politico reported.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said on Iowa PBS in July that the Senate should vote on any nominations that Trump makes this year, regardless of the election result.

“[If] it is a lame-duck session, I would support going ahead with any hearings that we might have,” she said. “And if it comes to an appointment prior to the end of the year, I would be supportive of that.”

Several other Republican senators have said a vote should happen after the election. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told Alaska Public Media on Friday that she would not vote to confirm a new justice before then, echoing her prior remark that doing so would be a “double standard.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the New York Times this month that she would not support seating a new justice in October.

“I think that’s too close. I really do,” she told the Times. Collins also said she did not think the Senate should vote on a justice during a potential lame-duck period for Trump.

In August, former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told NBC that he “couldn’t move forward with” filling an empty court seat this year if he were still in charge.

And Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at the Atlantic Festival in 2018, “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”

Graham’s statement on Friday did not mention whether he would move to fill the vacancy.

September 18, 2020 at 10:54 PM EDT
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Crowds gather at Supreme Court to remember Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Michael Miller and Clarence Williams

They gathered in small groups, some crying, others holding flowers or candles. A few clutched posters, including one woman whose hand-drawn sign portrayed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a saint.

Sporadic songs and applause rang out over the murmur of the growing crowd and bubbling fountains.

The mourners began arriving at the Supreme Court minutes after word broke that Ginsburg had died Friday at the age of 87.

September 18, 2020 at 10:53 PM EDT
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Trump reacts to Ginsburg’s death: ‘I’m actually saddened to hear that’

By Derek Hawkins and Amy B Wang

President Trump reacted to Ginsburg’s death after leaving the stage at a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minn.

“She led an amazing life," Trump said. "What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not. She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually saddened to hear that.”

In a statement posted later on Twitter, Trump called Ginsburg a “titan of the law." He did not mention filling her seat.

“Renowned for her brilliant mind and her powerful dissents at the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg demonstrated that one can disagree without being disagreeable toward one’s colleagues or different points of view,” he said, alluding to Ginsburg’s friendship to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. “Her opinions, including well-known decisions regarding the legal equality of women and the disabled, have inspired all Americans, and generations of great legal minds.”

September 18, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT
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Biden warns GOP-controlled Senate not to hold an election-year vote to fill Ginsburg’s seat

By Sean Sullivan

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned the Republican-controlled Senate not to hold an election-year confirmation vote to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

“Tonight, and in the coming days, we should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy. But there is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” he told reporters in a hastily arranged appearance late Friday.

Biden said he learned the news of Ginsburg’s death on the plane ride back to Delaware from a campaign trip to Minnesota.

He praised Ginsburg as a “voice for freedom and opportunity for everyone.” He called her “fierce and unflinching” in her pursuit of civil and legal rights.

“It’s hard to believe, but it was my honor to preside over her confirmation hearing,” said Biden, who served in the Senate and helmed the Judiciary Committee.

September 18, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT
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Ginsburg’s death sets off political battle over her replacement

By Robert Barnes

The liberal icon’s death will spark a political battle over whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will name her replacement.

A conservative replacement for Ginsburg will shift the court further to the right for generations. McConnell has said the Senate would move to confirm a replacement, even though it refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016.

Nina Totenberg, NPR’s Supreme Court correspondent and a longtime friend of Ginsburg’s, reported that the justice in recent days dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Ginsburg had resisted overtures that she retire when Obama was still president, and had hoped to continue to serve until the age of 90. But she was diagnosed with a return of cancer earlier this years, and the Supreme Court said she died of complications of metastatic pancreas cancer.

September 18, 2020 at 10:37 PM EDT
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‘There is an argument that you need a functioning court and nine sitting justices if the election faces a potential crisis’

By Robert Costa

Several conservative senators and senior aides talked through possible next steps late Friday, including a push for a vote before Election Day, according to three Republicans familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to discuss private deliberations.

“There is an argument that you need a functioning court and nine sitting justices if the election faces a potential crisis due to the pandemic and other issues,” one of the Republicans said. But such an effort could face roadblocks from more-centrist GOP senators who are up for reelection, such as Susan Collins of Maine, the Republican said.

Names of potential nominees began floating Friday night within the top ranks of the GOP, with two particular names emerging, according to Republicans close to the process who were not authorized to speak publicly, because of the sensitivity of the discussions. Allison Jones Rushing, a 38-year-old who was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit last year, and another federal judge, Amy Coney Barrett, who Trump appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. But the Republicans noted that Trump would ultimately come up with his own shortlist.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has been preparing for a possible Supreme Court vacancy for months, the Republicans said, and will be central in the coming weeks, since he sees himself as a conduit to conservatives such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has made the court and abortion a policy focus, and the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who has worked closely with the White House on past high-court nominations.

September 18, 2020 at 10:31 PM EDT
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Bill Clinton: Ginsburg ‘exceeded even my highest expectations’

By J. Freedom du Lac

In 1993, when President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, he called her a “healer” and said that “throughout her life, she has repeatedly stood for the individual, the person less well-off, the outsider in society, and has given those people greater hope by telling them they have a place in our legal system.”

At the time, Ginsburg was the first nominee by a Democratic president since Thurgood Marshall 26 years earlier.

Late Friday, after Ginsburg’s death, Clinton in a statement said that “her 27 years on the Court exceeded even my highest expectations when I appointed her. Her landmark opinions advancing gender equality, marriage equality, the rights of people with disabilities, the rights of immigrants, and so many more moved us closer to ‘a more perfect union.’ Her powerful dissents, especially her ringing defense of voting rights and other equal protection claims, reminded us that we walk away from our Constitution’s promise at our peril. And she did it all with kindness, grace, and calm, treating even her strongest adversaries with respect.”

Clinton called Ginsburg “one of the most extraordinary Justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court” and remembered her as “a magnificent judge and a wonderful person — a brilliant lawyer with a caring heart, common sense, fierce devotion to fairness and equality, and boundless courage in the face of her own adversity.”

He added: “Hillary and I will miss her terribly, and will be forever grateful for her life’s work and her friendship. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jane, James, their families, and everyone across America who looked to Justice Ginsburg for guidance, inspiration, and strength.”