Former President Barack Obama has urged Republican lawmakers to stay away from the Senate seat in November if it’s left empty for a “much longer period of time,” following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Obama told journalists on Wednesday, “It should be easy. That seat should not be up for grabs for much longer period of time.”
The seat in which Ginsburg will pass away is important for two reasons, Obama added. First, there is more than a half dozen other U.S. courts open next year, including in California and Maryland, and both the public and private sectors are looking for a proven leader.
Then, there is the desire of a President who intends to take the court off-limits for his successor.
Obama said that while he and some of his colleagues will not support the president, “We will never support a court that breaks with precedent.”
While the idea is not new, Democrats in Congress have largely stuck to the views of the minority party. While the new justices on the court will be chosen by the president — in a short-term lame duck session — those Democrats will have all but abandoned the argument that the Senate should still fill the seat.
The stakes are pretty high in the Nov. 6 election. Democrats see the seat as critical to taking back the Senate and gaining the necessary 60 votes to overcome Republican filibusters to advance a president’s judicial nominees, a standard that would make the vacancy even more important.
Republicans have been inclined to insist on retaining the seat, and a Democratic victory would further weaken that position.
“This is not about the president’s competence. This is about whether he’s willing to put a seat on the court open for much longer period of time,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court, which is often on recess during the summer, is scheduled to resume its work next week.