On Oct. 26, 2020, the senate confirmed President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. She will fill the vacant seat left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett is the fifth woman and the first mother of school aged children on the Supreme Court.
Justice Ginsburg passed away on Sept. 18 and only eight days later, Trump announced his intention to replace her with Barrett. This was just a little over a month before the presidential election which caused controversy.
A similar situation occurred in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. On Mar. 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s vacant seat a month after he died.
Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, stated that it was too late for Obama to appoint a new justice. This was because it was the final year of Obama’s second term. Even eight months before the election, he was considered a lame duck.
Mitch McConnell argued that it would be more democratic to let the people vote in the election for their new president who would then appoint the new justice. This would give the people more say in the Supreme Court.
The election declared Donald Trump the new President of the United States, winning him the ability to appoint a new Supreme Court justice. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch who was confirmed by the Senate.
When the same situation happened this year, Mitch McConnell decided that Trump should use his power as the president to appoint a justice while he was still in office. Barrett was confirmed only eight days before the election took place.
“Beyond the personal lack of dignity that this highlights in Mitch McConnell, it also goes to show a major flaw in our system,” says Cooper Anderson.
Mitch McConnell’s decisions show that our government is becoming politically polarized which is a major issue, especially when dealing with the courts.
“Justice should be blind and our justices shouldn’t associate with one party and their ideals,” says Anderson.
During the confirmation hearing, the senate voted in favor of Barrett with a 52-48 vote. The 48 people who voted to not confirm her were the 47 Democratic senators and one Republican senator. Barrett was confirmed along party lines, as not a single Democrat voted to confirm her.
“The central issue is political polarization in which every election feels ‘do or die’ and each political coalition will see it in their interests to attain and wield power as much as possible,” says Mr. Corbett.
The political polarization has the potential to tear the country apart.
The court now has a six to three conservative majority. Many people question if certain landmark decisions will be overturned.
“Yes, the Republican appointed justices will overturn precedents from the last 40-120+ years. That’s why they were selected in the first place,” says Corbett.
The conservative majority creates another issue because the president-elect is a democrat. The new conservative Supreme Court will oppose most of Biden’s ideas due to a difference in political belief.
The same thing happened with President FDR during the Great Depression. FDR tried to fix this issue by threatening to pack the court.
Many people are talking about packing the court today. There is no limit in the Constitution as to how many justices can be on the Supreme Court.
“Personally, I think that packing the court is wrong but I also believe that a party dominated court is wrong, that appointing justices based on party affiliation and youth is wrong, and that destroying the precedents for appointments is wrong and yet all of those still occur,” says Anderson.
The issues that the court is facing are not along party lines, but with integrity and following Constitutional values.
“These struggles have been with us throughout our history and we will continue to fight amongst ourselves over who we are and who we will be as Americans. This is us. Take it all in, it’s our duty as citizens to do so. That and to do better. If we fail, there isn’t anyone to blame but ourselves,” says Corbett.