This Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, under Republican leadership, is scheduled to begin hearings to fill the vacant seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The rush to fill the vacancy with less than a month before the general election is nothing less than a power grab that ignores the unprecedented circumstances our nation faces.
By putting this nomination process ahead of the desperate needs of millions of American families who are being financially devastated during the pandemic, the Senate leadership is showing its true colors.
COVID-19 has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States, left millions unemployed and brought pain and loss to virtually every community – with experts predicting another surge of infections and deaths this fall. The pandemic has also revealed dramatic racial disparities in health care and housing, in the workplace, and in financial and educational systems. The American public needs relief and they need it now. Not after the general election. Not after the new Congress is seated. The need is immediate and urgent.
The majority of Americans agree. Not only do they want the Senate and White House to come back to the negotiation table and hammer out a relief package with the U.S. House of Representatives, they strongly believe that Ginsburg’s replacement should be selected by the winner of the presidential election.
The Senate Judiciary Committee should listen to the will of the people. Yet, instead of working to address the many hardships caused by the pandemic, Senate Republicans are single-mindedly mustering their majority to ram through a nominee whose record raises serious doubts about whether she can be trusted to safeguard the rights of everyone in the United States – particularly women, communities of color, and LGBTQ people – if she’s appointed to the high court for life.
In their race to confirm Judge Barrett, GOP senators have jettisoned their own recent precedent – denying a hearing to the Supreme Court nominee President Obama presented eight months before the 2016 election, stating “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
It’s impossible to ignore their hypocrisy and lack of empathy for millions of suffering families, but there is far more to be considered.
First, by the time Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings begin Monday, millions of people will have already voted. With two senators on the committee having tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, they should prioritize their own safety – and the health of those who work with them – cancel the hearings, and, when it is safe to do so, concentrate on passing legislation (as the House has already done) to address the pandemic’s devastation.
Second, Judge Barrett is the wrong nominee to replace Ginsburg. Barrett’s past actions, writings, and judicial rulings reveal her ultra-conservative judicial philosophy – threatening to reverse progress made in protecting the rights of women, people of color, and members of LGBTQ communities. Justice Ginsburg championed such protections.
Having Judge Barrett on the U.S. Supreme Court would have seismic consequences – putting millions in peril of losing access to health care and equal justice. It would endanger public education funding as well as health and safety regulations. It also would threaten protections against religious discrimination and safeguards for immigrant communities and lower-income Americans. In fact, many of these critical issues will come before the Court during its current term.
Further, Judge Barrett has made several appearances at advocacy and training events for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which we have designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. ADF has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and its criminalization abroad. It has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claimed that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. The ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that would allow business owners to deny goods and services to LGBTQ people, women and religious minorities on the basis of their own personal religious beliefs.
Finally, voting rights and immigrant justice issues are at stake. Another ultra-conservative justice could extend strict, discriminatory voter ID laws, and stop progress on mail-in balloting and the restoration of full voting rights for previously incarcerated people. Judge Barrett dissented from a ruling that struck down the Trump administration’s discriminatory “public charge” rule (which would have penalized immigrants for using benefits Congress had explicitly made available to them) and dismissed humanitarian asylum claims under the Convention Against Torture. Another crucial issue, whether noncitizens should, for the first time, be excluded from the Census, is on the Court’s docket.
These are unprecedented times and our nation needs leadership right now, not partisan politics. The majority of Americans agree that the person elected president on Nov. 3 should nominate the individual who will fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat. Ignoring the will of Americans and our democratic system of checks and balances to jam through this highly controversial nomination threatens to diminish faith in the Court for decades to come.
We must fight this desperate attempt to reshape our nation’s highest court against the will of the people.
Please contact your senators and urge them to reject this nomination.
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images