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Ginsburg replacement fight can permanently damage Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most iconic Supreme Court justices in decades, but the fight over her replacement has the potential to permanently damage the reputation of the nation’s highest court, area political experts say.

Ginsburg, 87, died Friday of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer leaving behind a legacy as a champion of women’s and civil rights. The day she died, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote for a replacement. It would be the latest confirmation vote during a presidential election year before Election Day for a Supreme Court justice in the nation’s history.

“It’s going to add more chaos to an already chaotic election,” said Bill Binning, retired chairman of Youngstown State University’s political science department. “This is going to add more drama to this election.”

With Ginsburg’s death, Republicans control the Supreme Court 5-3 and putting another conservative on the high bench would alter its balance for decades to come.

Also, on March 16, 2016, then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing or a vote on the nomination insisting the next president should make the appointment.

Since then, McConnell has said he’d allow Republican Donald Trump’s nomination in the last year of his first term as president to be considered and reiterated that after Ginsburg’s death.

He said the difference is with Garland there was a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate in Obama’s last year while this year there is a Republican president and the GOP has the majority in the Senate.

This ignores the 97-0 confirmation by a Democrat-controlled Senate on Feb. 3, 1988, of Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court by Republican Ronald Reagan in the last year of his second term as president.

Republicans can stop the confirmation hearings for Trump’s eventual nomination if they can’t get 50 votes to support it. Republicans control the Senate with 53 votes, but there is talk of some of its members opting to wait.

“The whole thing falls apart if Republicans don’t go along with it,” said Capri Cafaro, a former Ohio Senate minority leader who serves as executive in residence at The American University’s School of Public Affairs and is a Fox News commentator. “McConnell’s in a challenging position. There’s pressure to get this done. It could cost him the Senate majority.”

Read more in Sunday’s Vindicator.

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