How The Battle Over Replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Shaping Massachusetts Politics

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An impromptu memorial for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Harvard Law School Library. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
An impromptu memorial for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Harvard Law School Library. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Republican attorney Kevin O'Connor, who is challenging Democratic Senator Ed Markey in November, is blunt about what the U.S. Senate should do following the death of Justice Ginsberg.

"They should do their job," he said.

O'Connor says that means as soon as President Trump nominates a successor, the Senate should hold hearings and vote.

"I don't think it's ever a good idea to have an even number of Supreme Court justices," he said. "We have a vacancy. There's ample time to hold hearings and make a decision.

O'Connor wasn't in office in 2016, when the Republican-led Senate refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland. But O'Connor said he probably would have said the same thing that he's saying today — that senators should do their jobs.

Markey, the man O'Connor's trying to replace in Washington tweeted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should follow the precedent that he set four years ago and let the election take place first. Speaking to a group of progressive activists on Sunday, Markey said blocking Trump's ability to add another conservative to the court is essential.

"Think about it," Markey said. "This Supreme Court justice might in fact vote on whether or not Donald Trump gets seated, perhaps in a five to four vote as fraudulent activity gets engaged in."

That's not a fantasy. Back in 2000, a five to four Supreme Court decision ended the contested presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. Markey went further, tweeting that if Democrats regain power, they “must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.” That annoyed members of Joe Biden's team, who saw it as pushing too far and causing potential problems for Democrats just before the election, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Outgoing congressman Joe Kennedy, who failed in his primary bid to oust Markey, agreed with his former rival, tweeting, "If [McConnell] holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021. It's that simple."

But Julie Hill, the Republican nominee running to replace Kennedy in the House says the Republicans are right to move forward with the nomination.

"The president has a constitutional duty to nominate a new justice," Hill said. "And then the Senate, they'll decide if they'll fully vet or vote before the election or defer to a later date. Constitutionally, I think it's the right thing to do. I almost feel that you have to do it."

But Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a very different point of view, and  condemned McConnell for pushing for a nomination vote before the election.

"This is the last gasp of a desperate party that is overrepresented in the halls of power," Warren said in a video posted on Twitter. "The last gasp of a corrupt Republican leadership that doesn't reflect the views of the majority of our people or the values of our country."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, is siding with Democrats in this debate, tweeting that the Senate should allow Americans to cast their ballots for president before a new justice is nominated or confirmed.

"The Supreme Court is too important to rush and must be removed from partisan political infighting," Baker wrote.

This segment aired on September 22, 2020.


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Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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