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Ethan: With Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, I wish we had time to actually talk about her legacy, but your guys Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are hell-bent on turning her death into a desperation hail-mary to force a fringe ideology on the American people.
Phil: Notwithstanding the roar of today’s politics, I do think we should take a moment to honor Justice Ginsburg. While she and I did not see eye-to-eye on how intrusive government should be, I have tremendous respect for her lifetime of public service.
Ethan: Next to Thurgood Marshall, no Supreme Court justice has had more of an impact on achieving equality in America. And in terms of women’s rights, she stands alone – from health care, to employment, to income equality.
Phil: She has certainly proven that women are just as capable as men of achieving anything they put their mind to.
Ethan: That was never a question. It was the barriers that needed to be taken down, and she took down more than most.
Phil: Indeed. OK, time to talk politics.
Ethan: Did you know that in over 200 years of Supreme Court vacancies, only five have occured within 120 days of a presidential election? In the other four, the presidents at the time waited until after the election to make their pick.
Phil: I understand your point, but they were probably going to win anyway.
Ethan: Nope. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower were both coasting to victory, but the other two, John Quincy Adams and Millard Filmore lost (Fillmore didn’t even get his party’s nomination, so he knew he was going to be out).
Phil: It may surprise you to read this, but I actually agree with you. Although John Roberts was confirmed in just 24 days, the next nominee should be vetted and voted on after Election Day. After “we the people” have spoken about who we decide our president and senate will be.
Ethan: That’s good to hear. And I am pleased to hear Senator Collins say she will oppose any nomination made before Election Day. The problem is that she also said “President Trump has the constitutional authority to make a nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and I would have no objection to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s beginning the process of reviewing his nominee’s credentials.”
Phil: Correct. She doesn’t control the president or the Judiciary Committee. If they want to proceed, they will. She has simply made clear that she believes Nov. 3 should be determinative.
Ethan: And how will that work? The president will nominate someone. The committee will review and make a recommendation. If Joe Biden then wins, Trump will withdraw the name? You must be kidding.
Phil: Who knows what happens between now and then, and at the speed with which Congress often does its work, it may take months. Meanwhile Collins will go about the committee work she can control.
Ethan: Collins is very good at wanting it both ways.
Phil: What do you want her to do? She doesn’t have the power to determine at what pace the president will fulfil his duties under the Constitution.
Ethan: I want her to make clear that she will only consider supporting a nominee made by whomever is sworn in as president on January 20, 2021. And if she really means it, she should get some of her colleagues to join in and block the vote altogether.
Phil: You can be sure they are debating the possibilities in the caucuses on how to proceed, you are just going to have to be patient to see the results.
Ethan: Collins claims that she has great respect from her colleagues and that she is one of the most bipartisan senators in the U.S. Senate. If that is the case, she ought to be able to get three of them to join her in stopping the circus.
Phil: She has made her position clear. I assume that if the president and the Senate choose to move forward against her advice, she will then decide whether to support the nominee based on that person’s credentials. As it should be.
Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.