One day after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, political representatives from across the state — including in the north country — took time from a busy campaign season to mark her passing. But as a tense Election Day looms, Republican leaders are already talking of President Donald J. Trump quickly filling the vacant seat on the nation’s highest court.
Justice Ginsburg died Friday night at the age of 87 in the midst of a bitter presidential election — 46 days until Election Day.
Representative for New York’s 21st congressional district, Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, spoke of Justice Ginsburg’s passing during a campaign rally Saturday morning in Potsdam.
“America mourns for the loss of Justice Ginsburg,” Rep. Stefanik said at the campaign event. “I know while people may have disagreed with some of her decisions, she has served as a role model for multiple generations of women, particularly women who have cracked the glass ceiling in the field of law.”
Rep. Stefanik added that it’s proper, even in the waning days of an election, for the nomination process to proceed for Justice Ginsburg’s replacement.
“I look to the Constitution and I think the president, constitutionally, has the right to put forth a name,” Rep. Stefanik said. “I support the president’s decision to do so. ...The Constitution gives the power of the Senate the right to confirm, and I support the Senate going through that process.”
On Feb. 13, 2016, when Justice Antonin G. Scalia died during an election year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the American people should have a say in Justice Scalia’s replacement. Despite Sen. McConnell’s comment, about a month later, then-President Barack Obama moved to appoint Merrick B. Garland, then 63, who was the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. At the time, the Republican-led Senate refused to hold a hearing or vote on Justice Scalia’s replacement, resulting in the appointment of a new justice being delayed until after the inauguration of Mr. Trump. Justice Scalia, a conservative, was appointed to the nation’s high court in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
If Sen. McConnell moves forward with a Senate vote to appoint Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the Nov. 3 election, it would be a direct reversal of his statement made four years ago.
As reported by NPR on Friday, days before her death, Justice Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter, Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Rep. Stefanik said the circumstances have changed since 2016.
“What’s changed is that the American people did have a voice because they had a lame duck Democratic president with a Republican Senate. This is very different when you have a Republican Senate and a Republican president. The Senate can choose to move forward with a nomination and I believe Sen. McConnell is going to do so,” Rep. Stefanik said.
Rep. Stefanik’s opponent, Democratic candidate Tedra L. Cobb, took to Twitter on Saturday to respond to reports of Rep. Stefanik’s position to move forward with the confirmation process.
“Of course she does,” Ms. Cobb posted. “@EliseStefanik has one priority: pleasing @realDonaldTrump.”
Also posted to Twitter on Friday night, Ms. Cobb said, “My heart is heavy tonight. My sympathies, along with those of many Americans, are with the Ginsburg family. We are so fortunate to have been blessed by this once in a lifetime woman.”
Other state leaders expressed their condolences of Justice Ginsburg’s death hours after the news broke Friday night.
“The world has lost a giant,” U.S. Sen. Kirstin E. Gillibrand said in a prepared statement. “A brilliant jurist, a resolute champion for justice and a trailblazer for women’s rights, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left a legacy that will echo through history.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday that the state will honor the life and legacy of Justice Ginsburg with a statue in Brooklyn — her birthplace. The governor will appoint a commission to select an artist and undergo a location selection process.
“She was a monumental figure of equality, and we can all agree that she deserves a monument in her honor,” Gov. Cuomo said. “She persevered despite several bouts of cancer and was present every single day to participate in the strengthening and safeguarding of our democracy.”
“Our hearts are heavy tonight with the passing of one of the most impactful justices to ever serve on the Supreme Court,” state Attorney General Letitia A. James said in a statement about Justice Ginsburg’s death Friday night. “From her time at the ACLU founding its Women’s Right Project, to her 27 years serving the highest court in the land, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lifelong warrior in the fight to ensure justice and equality for all Americans.”
118th District Assemblyman Robert J. Smullen, R-Meco, who was also at Saturday’s event in Potsdam, said all Americans are mourning the death of Justice Ginsburg.
“She has been absolutely a constitutional icon for many, many years,” he added.
Mr. Smullen said there’s little ambiguity about what would happen next.
“The process is quite clear. The president nominates and the Senate confirms,” he said. “...With it being an election year, it will complicate that process. It will be just like America being very divided, it will be a very divisive issue.”