GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski—No Supreme Court Nomination For the Ginsburg Vacancy Before Election Day September 21, 2020
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020). The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) as well as our entire country just lost a brilliant legal giant, a fighter for justice and women’s rights, and despite all her successes and achievements, one of the most humble and decent human beings. Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she was the first Jewish woman to serve on the High Court. Ginsburg (87) passed away, after a valiant prolonged battle against metastatic pancreatic cancer on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, as well as at the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on the Sabbath and on Rosh HaShanah is considered a “Zaddik/Zaddeket,” (Hebrew female term for “Zaddik”) a good and righteous person, one who fought tirelessly to create a more just world. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, according to a poll conducted by Marquette Law School just days before her death, was the most widely known jurist on the Supreme Court. She had a 44%-19% favorable v. unfavorable rating (nytimes.com, Russonello, 9/19/20). In popular culture, many women and young girls saw her as a role model. She was affectionately nicknamed the “Notorious R.B.G.,” as if she was a rapper, by then NYU law student Shana Knizhnik. Khizhnik started an affectionate Tumblr blog with that name because she was impressed by Ginsburg’s strong dissent in the “Shelby County v. Holder” case that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In her dissent, Ginsburg stated that removing a major section of the Voting Rights Act “when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, A Life,” De Hart, 2018, repository law umich edu/book).” Although conservative Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia was a very close friend of hers, Ginsburg was not part of his conservative camp, but allied with the four liberal dissenters, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Before becoming a DC Circuit Ct. Judge and later joining SCOTUS, Ginsburg had argued several landmark cases before SCOTUS expanding equal protection for women. On the High Court, she continued to defend women’s rights, was pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state, and pro-Obamacare (DeHart).
Justice Ginsburg fought to the end, despite repeated bouts with cancer, to stay on the High Court issuing her opinions. She feared that if she retired or died long before the 2020 election, reactionary Donald and his right-wing Senate GOPers could appoint a Justice who would give the hard-right Thomas/ Kavanaugh/ Alito wing a 6-3 advantage and overturn Roe v. Wade, healthcare, and civil rights crucial to the American people. As the end of her life approached, Ginsburg dictated her final wish to her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed (cnn.com, Ghitis, 9/19/20).” Many Democrats, moderates, and independents, want that wish honored. A 2019 Marquette Poll had 56% of respondents v. 32% stating that they had little confidence in Trump picking “the right kind of person” to be the next justice (nytimes.com, Russonello, 9/19/20). NY Times/Siena Polls of voters in ME, NC, and AZ released on 9/18/2020 found voters in those swingy states want Democrat Biden to select the next SCOTUS justice by 12% margin, 53%-41% (nytimes.com, Cohn, 9/19/20). A Reuters Poll released on 9/20/2020, conducted after Ginsburg’s death, found that 62% of Americans, including 5 in 10 GOPers, want the winner of the 11/2020 presidential election to name her successor (reuters.com, Kahn, 9/20/20).
Tributes continue to pour in, including from one of Scalia’s sons, expressing sorrow over Ginsburg’s passing. Ginsburg has yet to lie in state in the Supreme Ct. chamber and be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband. Demagogue Donald and the majority of the GOP, however, could care less about these grief-stricken Americans or their feelings. Less than two hours after the country learned that RBG had died, Trump lackey and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was proclaiming that Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate (Amy McGrath.org, 9/20/20).” McConnell now intends to push this right-wing 6-3 SCOTUS-changing nomination through with less 50-days till the 11/03/2020 general election (voting has already started in several states). McConnell, of course, felt quite differently after Scalia’s sudden death in 2/2016. Then nine months away from the general presidential election, he argued that Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, moderate Merrick Garland, should not even be given a hearing because the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president (nytimes.com, Liptak & Stolberg, 9/19/20).” McConnell successfully blocked Garland with his GOP majority. McConnell has now scrapped his “Garland Rule.” He says that since the President and Senate are run by the same party, that rule is “irrelevant” and can be ignored. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsay Graham (R-SC) who in 2018 stated that if a SCOTUS opening came in the “last year of Trump’s first term and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.” Seeing an opportunity to flip SCOTUS to the hard right, and in a tough 2020 re-election fight, Graham has now flipped and argues that Trump must fill Ginsburg’s seat (See cnn.com, Avlon, 9/19/20). McConnell’s and Graham’s “principles” mean absolutely nothing. The only beliefs they ever had are winning at any cost in any way they can (See Stevens, “It Was All A Lie,”2020). They are members of the “G H P,” Grand Hypocrite Party.
Presently, most GOPers are going along with McConnell and Graham, trying to push a hearing on Trump’s nominee whom he says he will announce on either 9/25 or 9/26/2020. So far only ME’s Susan Collins, in the re-election fight of her life because she voted for Kavanaugh, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have come out against holding a hearing before the election on Trump’s nominee. Sen. Murkowski stated on 9/20/2020, “I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election –less than two months out—and I believe the same standard must apply (huffpost.com, Miller, H., 9/20/20).” In order for such a hearing to be blocked, two more GOPers must join Murkowski and Collins and the opposition Democrats, but so far, none of them have. Meet Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Fourth-term GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski (63) is currently AK’s senior U.S. Senator. Ketchikan, AK native Lisa Murkowski is the daughter of former AK GOP Senator Frank Murkowski and a former Governor of that state. Lisa received her 1985 law degree from OR’s Willamette University College of Law. In 1998, Lisa started her political career by being elected to the AK House where she served until 2002. In that state chamber, she showed her independence from her father and fellow GOPers. While her father was running for governor on a no new taxes pledge in 2002, daughter Lisa was concerned by her state’s then $1.1 billion budget shortfall. Lisa successfully pushed for a tax hike, including raising the alcohol tax from 3 cents to 10 cents a drink. Her bill was enacted. She won renomination in her primary against a conservative challenger by just 57 votes. After the general election, she became AK’s State House Majority Leader. She did not stay there long. When her father was elected Governor in 2002 and had to leave the U.S. Senate with two years left in his term, he ended up picking daughter Lisa to succeed him. Initially, he looked at other candidates, including former mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin. In the end, he felt his daughter was the best choice. While 45 sons have followed their Dads into the U.S. Senate, Lisa Murkowski was the first woman in this category. Daughter Lisa and her father have now held that same Senate seat for 40 years, but also, have chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a post absolutely crucial to Alaska (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac).
Although she proved herself to be a very competent federal legislator and quickly “learned the ropes,” bumper stickers mocked her with the words, “Lisa, who’s your daddy?” In all her three re-election races, she has never won a majority of the vote, just pluralities. In 2004, she took 48.6% of the vote, in 2010, 39.5% of the vote, and in 2016, 44.4% of the vote. She is the only Senator never to have won more than 49% of the vote (Cohen & Cook 2020). In the Senate, she has not often been her father’s ideological daughter. Her father was a traditional conservative. Lisa was more of a GOP moderate with a decidedly libertarian streak. Unlike her father, Lisa is pro-choice. She joined three GOP Senators to seek more civil liberties in the post-9/11 Patriot Act. She is pro-gay rights. In 2009, Lisa joined five Senate GOPers to help pass the Matthew Shepard Act, expanding the federal hate crimes statute to cover a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Although Lisa often worked on state issues and pushed for more oil exploration, an absolute must in AK, in Tea Party year 2010, she was attacked by a Tea Party GOPer Joe Miller for her social stands as well as by Sarah Palin. Miller beat her in the primary 51%-49% . However, Lisa decided to wage a write-in 11/2010 general election campaign. With the support some Democrats and AK Natives she won re-election 39%-35%, the first Senator since SC’s Strom Thurmond had done that more than half-a century earlier (Cohen & Cook 2020).
After her write-in upset victory, Murkowski became even more oriented toward the political middle. In the lame-duck 2010 session, she was one of seven GOPers to support the repeal of the military’s anti-LGBTQ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In 2012, Murkowski was the lead GOPer who unsuccessfully tried to restore several provisions of the Voting Rights bill SCOTUS had gutted that would help AK Natives. In 2016, Murkowski never endorsed crude Demagogue Donald and after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out, she told him to step aside. She is best known for voting to save Obamacare in 2017 along with the late GOP Sen. McCain and GOPer Susan Collins. She opposed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the only GOPer to do so. She was very upset about the sexual allegations against him and his harsh partisan response to them (See Marcus, “Supreme Ambition,”2019). Yes, as previously noted, she votes for oil exploration and voted for the 1% tax cut, GOP “gospel.” However, according to GovTrack’s analysis, Murkowski was rated the second most liberal GOP Senator to the left of all GOPers except Collins and even to the left of WVA Dem. Senator Joe Manchin. Yes, she voted with Donald 74% of the time, but she also was one of two GOPers to vote with Obama over 70% of the time (fivethirtyeight.com, Bycoffe, rollcall.com, Lesniewski).
Unlike far too many rubber stamp Donald Senate GOPers, Murkowski is a Senator willing to vote her conscience and buck the party line, an extreme rarity today. GOPers should listen to Murkowski, but don’t hold your breath. McConnell’s chief goal in the Senate has been to railroad conservative judges through the Senate on a conveyor belt to reshape SCOTUS and the lower courts (Marcus, “Supreme Ambition”) which he has done. This November, we must vote in droves plus to make sure to take back the White House and recapture the Senate. It has always been about the Supreme Ct. and lower courts. Democrats are finally realizing that. Please win this election for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May her memory be a blessing for all of us.