To the surprise of virtually no one, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
If the choice, announced in the Rose Garden even before Ginsburg's burial, was lacking in the reality-show suspense that surrounded Trump's two previous Supreme Court picks, the outcome might well be the same: another conservative justice confirmed on a near party-line vote in the Senate following a contentious confirmation process, this one on the cusp of a presidential election.
It is particularly egregious that an institution once known as the world's greatest deliberative body would attempt to rush through a Supreme Court nomination, even as it has been unable to pass another relief bill for the millions of Americans suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Supreme Court confirmations typically take time, and for good reason. Justices are arguably the nine most powerful people in government behind the president. They can serve for the rest of their lives, will never face voters, and routinely rule on deeply personal and immensely political matters.
In the upcoming term, the justices are expected to decide once again on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which is to say the ability of millions of Americans to buy health insurance in the midst of a pandemic. Abortion rights could well be on the line in the not too distant future.
For these reasons, it is important that the Senate asks a number of threshold questions before it even delves into the particulars of Judge Barrett, 48, who's serving on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Chicago.
First among the questions: Is it wise to pursue a heated confirmation fight just 38 days from an election? This is the closest nomination ever made to a U.S. presidential election. The prior record was Aug. 16, 1852, and the Senate did not act on that nomination.
Another question is whether it is possible to do the necessary due diligence on any candidate for the high court, one who could serve for decades, at the breakneck speed proposed by Senate Republicans, who are said to be eyeing a late-October confirmation vote.
Most important, is it fair for Republicans to hold open a vacancy for the better part of a year in 2016, when a Democrat was president — citing the pending presidential election as a rationale — and then do a 180-degree turn when a Republican makes a nomination?
The answer to all of these questions — whether it is wise to have a confirmation battle in the home stretch of a critical presidential election, whether there is enough time before the election to give the choice sufficient scrutiny, and whether Republicans in charge of the Senate have any high ground to stand on — is no.
Attempting to ram through the nomination of Judge Barrett, after refusing to even consider an eminently qualified pick made by then-President Barack Obama, is a good way to undermine America’s faith in its courts.
— USA Today