CT GOP leaders to U.S. Senate: vote on a new Supreme Court justice this year

September 23, 2020

Hartford Courant 


As Republicans in the U.S. Senate line up behind the effort to vote on a new Supreme Court Justice this year, GOP leaders in Connecticut say they support quickly confirming a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg.


“The Constitution doesn’t stop because it’s an election year,” said J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, who has endorsed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s right to convene a vote before Inauguration Day.


McConnell blocked former President Obama from placing Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court in 2016, but this is different, Romano said.


“Obama put a name forward as is his right but he didn’t have the votes to confirm him” in the Republican-controlled Senate, Romano said.

With Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, announcing Tuesday that he supports a vote on a nominee, the way appears clear for Republicans to vote this year on another Trump nominee for the court.


 Only Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine say the Senate should defer a vote.


Democrats, including Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, say the Senate should hold off confirming a replacement for Ginsburg, but they appear to lack the votes or the parliamentary moves to block a vote.


Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Republican who represents several small towns in eastern Connecticut, said Murphy and Blumenthal both advocated for Obama’s Supreme Court pick to get a vote before the 2016 election.


“What they’re saying now is very different than what they said two years ago,” Dubitsky said. “They hate Trump and they want to do anything they can to make sure they get the benefit of the open seat that they are not entitled to it.”


Blumenthal said he would do everything in his power to block Trump’s nominee, who could be announced as early as Friday. “Unequivocally and unquestionably, the president should not ask for a vote before the election and inaugural, so that the American people can have a say and a voice in this choice,” the Democratic senator said.


Dubitsky said he believes history is on Trump’s side. He said there have been at least 26 instances of a Supreme Court vacancy opening during an election year and in each case, a vote on the president’s nominee moved forward.


“The president of the United States is elected to fill constitutional obligations, one of which is to nominate justices to the Supreme Court,” he said. “Blumenthal and Murphy can make all the hay they want. They’re ignoring history.”


State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, agrees that Trump has the right to nominate a replacement for Ginsburg and the U.S. Senate has the right to hold hearings on that candidate’s suitability for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.


“Whoever President Trump puts out there is going to be mercilessly under fire between now and election day,” Kissel said. “Nonetheless, its within his rights to name someone.”


One prominent Republican, state Rep. Arthur O’Neill of Southbury, the longest serving Republican in the Connecticut House, said recent history suggests the confirmation of Ginsburg’s replacement should be deferred until after the election.


“There’s nothing in the Constitution that says it needs to be delayed,” said O’Neill, a lawyer who serves on the legislature’s judiciary committee.


“However a lot of things that we do in politics … are patterns, practices, traditions and understandings what’s reasonable under a given set of circumstances,” O’Neill said. “And it seems like there’s been a developing tradition on holding off doing nominations this way when they’re right on top of an election.”


O’Neill said he is troubled by McConnell’s shift from blocking a vote on Obama’s nominee to agreeing to hold one on Trump’s. “I’m concerned that the concept only applies when it’s politically expedient,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the standard for the Supreme Court.”