Is Pelosi right to threaten impeachment to block the Supreme Court nominee?
- The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), established in 1787 (ratified in 1788) via Article III of the Constitution, establishes the Judicial branch.
- Congress decides how the Supreme Court functions. Congress’s Judiciary Act of 1789 first established six justices.
- Congress has changed the number of SCOTUS seats over the years (from five to ten). SCOTUS has had nine seats following the Civil War, under President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.
- For 150+ years, nine judges make up SCOTUS: one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Federal judges are appointed to life-positions on the court by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, September 18, from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. Justice Ginsburg requested “not to be replaced until a new president is installed.”
- Democrats demand Republicans wait until the election claiming speeding up the process would be “hypocritical” after denying former President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. But in 1992, then-Senator Joe Biden gave a speech on “refusing to confirm any election-year Bush nominees.”
- Between 1796-1968, presidents have aimed to fill nineteen SCOTUS vacancies in a “presidential-election year while their party controlled the Senate.” Nine of those ten were successfully filled.
- On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi threatened impeachment to stall a Supreme Court nomination.
Though impeachment is a novel tactic, the overarching concept is not without precedent. Both parties have been filibustering each other for years. This impeachment tactic is just a form of stalling, like the filibuster, used in cases where one party lacks the power to stop the other from progressing on a disagreeable item.
For Republicans to claim impeachment as an unfair move, saying the president should be allowed to nominate a justice weeks before an election, is rich with irony. In 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. However, Mitch McConnell did not allow a vote, claiming it was too close to the upcoming election. This is a major point of contention for the Democrats as Obama’s nomination was made in March.
Nancy Pelosi must do anything and everything in her power to stop Donald Trump and the Republicans from stacking the court with another conservative judge. The repercussions of this would last for decades, and Pelosi has a duty to her democratic voters to stop this. As she described recently, [members of Congress] “take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people.” In this case, her duty is to ensure the Trump administration does not unfairly abuse its power, affecting the court for decades.
Nancy Pelosi is absolutely right to threaten impeachment over President Trump’s potential SCOTUS nomination. Impeachment is a viable tactic, and Pelosi need not heed hypocritical commentary from Republicans looking to stack the court with conservative justices.
The US Constitution requires the President to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court. It is paramount the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg’s death be filled quickly because the Court may be called upon to decide the winner of the 2020 Presidential election if the states cannot reach a consensus. If the remaining eight justices were split 4-4, a decision would not be reached. Impeaching a President for doing what the Constitution requires of him could set a precedent for impeachment for merely disagreeing with a Chief Executive’s politics. Even Rahm Emmanuel, a left-wing Democrat like Pelosi, remarked that pursuing impeachment would be “corrosive to our political system.” The argument that the 40+ days remaining before the 2020 election is too soon to confirm a replacement is moot since prior justices have been confirmed in as little as 31 days. Impeaching Trump again might backfire on Pelosi and help Trump get reelected. Voters might see it as legislative overreach. Democrats say Mitch McConnell is violating his own rule from 2016 when he refused to vote to replace Antonin Scalia because it was too close to an election. However, if the Democrats were currently holding the White House and Senate majority, they would undoubtedly move quickly to fill a SCOTUS vacancy. President Trump has been very respectful of Justice Ginsburg’s passing but made it clear Republicans will vote to confirm a replacement. Democrat contention that replacing Ginsburg so quickly during Trump’s term is disrespectful to her is an untrue statement. The needs of the entire US should be prioritized over the wishes of or tribute to one individual.