23 de octubre de 2020
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Trump insists he'll fill Supreme Court vacancy, despite nearness of election

Washington, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump insisted on Monday that he will quickly replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg despite calls by the Democratic opposition and some Republicans to postpone such a move until after the Nov. 3 presidential and legislative elections.

The president said in an interview with Fox News that next Friday or Saturday he will announce his candidate to replace the progressive justice, who died last Friday, a decision that could radically change the existing mix of conservative and progressive justices on the high court.

With Ginsburg's passing, the court now has five conservative and three liberal justices, but if Trump were to succeed in nominating and having confirmed another conservative, there would be an almost unassailable 6-3 conservative majority, which might last for many decades.

Trump has promised that his nominee will be woman and said that he would prefer that she be relatively young so that she could serve in her lifetime court post for longer.

The president, however, did say that he has reduced the list of possible candidates to five, although he did not reveal their names.

Nevertheless, court and political observers say - according to The New York Times - that the favorite candidate at this time is Amy Coney Barrett, a 48-year-old magistrate, followed by Cuban-American Barbara Lagoa, 52, and Allison Jones Rushing, 38, along with White House attorney Kate Todd.

According to the president, he is only waiting until the funeral services for Ginsburg are finalized to begin the process of replacing her, although any nominee would have to be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate.

"I would say on Friday or Saturday I'll be announcing the pick," Trump told reporters before leaving the White House on Wednesday for an Ohio campaign rally. "Five women are being looked at and vetted very carefully. Five. And we'll make a decision - probably Saturday, but Friday or Saturday."

Ginsburg's body will lie in state from Wednesday to Friday at the high court and also at the US Capitol building so that the public may pay their last respects to her.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that Ginsburg's casket on Wednesday will be placed on the Lincoln Catafalque at the upper part of the Supreme Court steps and then on Thursday will be placed in the open air due to the coronavirus pandemic so that members of the public can socially distance while paying their respects.

On Friday, the casket will be transferred to the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol for a formal ceremony that will be open only to invited guests, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump's decision to immediately nominate a replacement for Ginsburg, who died after a lengthy up-and-down battle with various forms of cancer at age 87, has sparked heated controversy because the veteran magistrate drafted a written message before dying in which she said that her "most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," meaning, presumably, that if Trump is defeated in November she did not want him to replace her as a last move during the lame duck session.

In the Fox interview, Trump called into question the veracity of this last wish - which Ginsburg dictated to her granddaughter, according to National Public Radio - and said that it could have been written by Democratic congressional leaders.

Trump said that this wish seemed to him to have probably come from Pelosi, the Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who presided over the failed impeachment process against the president, or the head of the Democratic minority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

Specifically, Trump said - without citing any evidence to back up the claim - that "I don't know that she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi? I would be more inclined to the second, OK, you know. It came out of the wind, it sounds so beautiful. But that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe a Pelosi or shifty Schiff. So that came out of the wind."

Apart from all the Democratic lawmakers in Congress, two Republican senators have said that they are opposed to filling the seat vacated by Ginsburg before the November election.

Those senators are Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the latter of whom said that in the months before the 2016 election, when conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, she also opposed nominating a replacement.

At that time, when Democratic President Barack Obama after Scalia's death - which came eight months before the election, and not some six weeks, as in Ginsburg's case - nominated Merrick Garland, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a conservative Republican, simply ignored the nomination and did not even call for a Senate vote on the matter, arguing that the "people should decide" in the upcoming election who has the right to nominate a candidate to high court late in a president's term.

"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," McConnell said at the time.

Now, however, McConnell has said in a statement that: "In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia's death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president's second term," adding that "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

The Republicans, who hold 53 of the 100 Senate seats, would need at least 51 votes to confirm Trump's nominee.

If they secure the votes of only 50 lawmakers, then they could also push through a nominee because the president of the Senate is Vice President Mike Pence, and he could step in to break the tie.

If Trump manages to appoint a sixth conservative justice to the high court, such an imbalance between conservatives and progressives on the judicial body could last for decades and markedly affect legal decisions on matters such as abortion and immigration, both of which are basic issues for the GOP base.

Ginsburg will be interred in a private ceremony next week at Arlington National Cemetery near the Washington Monument, but on the opposite bank of the Potomac River.

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