Constitutional Freedoms

Ginsburg Wants ‘Bipartisan Spirit’ Restored to SCOTUS Confirmations

Ahead of Trump's second Supreme Court nomination, liberal justice says it's 'unfortunate' that votes 'divide along party lines'

Aging liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants the U.S. Senate to return to the “bipartisan spirit” that until recently marked confirmation debates and votes on nominees to the nation’s highest tribunal.

“I was considered by some a controversial person because of my affiliation with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),” Ginsburg said Thursday in Jerusalem following a screening of “RBG,” a documentary about her life.

ABC News reported Ginsburg’s comments, which otherwise received little coverage in the U.S.

“There wasn’t a single question asked of me during the hearings about my ACLU connections. The vote was 96-3,” noted Ginsburg, one of the court’s most liberal justices. “When Justice [Stephen] Breyer was nominated the next year, the vote for him was 87-9.”

Ginsburg co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in 1972 and began serving as the organization’s general counsel in 1973. Even so, the vast majority of GOP senators voted to confirm Ginsburg because of her legal qualifications and experience.

But since Ginsburg’s confirmation in 1993 and Breyer’s in 1994, Ginsburg noted that the political atmosphere in the Senate “has tended to divide along party lines.”

“And I think that’s unfortunate,” Ginsburg said. “During my confirmation hearings, perhaps my biggest supporter was Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah. I hope someday we will get back to the bipartisan spirit prevailing with respect to the confirmation of judges.”

President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg and Breyer.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement late last month enraged many liberal journalists, talking heads, political activists and politicians, causing them to erupt into mass hysterics, because his departure allows President Donald Trump to nominate a second justice just a year and a half into his presidency.

If, as expected, Trump’s choice is a constitutionalist, the balance of power will be swung to the conservative side of the court on most issues. Trump will make the announcement Monday at 9 p.m.

When Trump nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Gorsuch faced an intense backlash from liberal activists and fielded a barrage of hostile questions from Democratic senators. The Senate ultimately confirmed Gorsuch by a 54-45 vote, with only three Democrats crossing the partisan divide in his favor.

Trump and his advisers remain confident the Senate will confirm the president’s second nominee in the fall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) so far has rejected a push by Democrats to delay the vote until after Democrats have the chance to retake the Senate in the November midterm elections.

Trump reportedly has narrowed down his shortlist to four candidates: Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett, and Thomas Hardiman. All currently serve on the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. Kavanaugh and Hardiman appear to be Trump’s two favorites going into Monday, according to The New York Times.

Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society’s executive vice president — currently on leave from the group to work with Trump’s Supreme Court nomination team — said he has “never seen a president work harder and reach out more broadly than this one to really make sure he gets it right.”

Related: NBC’s Todd Confronts Durbin on SCOTUS Confirmation ‘Hypocrisy’

“Every confirmation battle is a big one these days, and [Trump] knows that,” Leo said Monday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “But he is also very confident that under the leadership of Sen. McConnell, this is something that can happen swiftly by the first Monday of October, when the court begins to meet.”

“So I think he is very confident that any of the finalists will be confirmed by the Senate,” he added.

Leo noted that Trump “ran on the Supreme Court issue more than any other presidential candidate, and he energized the voters in a way that no other presidential candidate has on this issue.”

“It was one of the major factors that propelled his election and helped to hold the Senate. He continued that momentum with Neil Gorsuch, and I think people understand exactly what the president wants. Someone who is going to interpret the law … and I think that’s what people are going to get,” Leo continued.

Trump teased his nomination announcement on Twitter Monday, writing, “I have long heard that the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice — Will be announced tonight at 9:00 P.M.”

meet the author

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].