WASHINGTON, D.C. (FNN NEWS) – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg battles mounting health problems amid a turbulent election year.
Justice Ginsburg, nominated for the highest court in the land in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, has served for nearly three decades. At 87 years old, she is the oldest sitting member on the bench. She is also only the second woman to become a Supreme Court Justice.
Commonly understood to be on the liberal wing of the bench, her increasing health concerns worry liberals who fear her replacement by a conservative Senate.
This week, Ginsburg was released from the hospital from a “non-surgical procedure,” however, Ginsburg has battled cancer for over twenty years, with five resurgences of the disease, three of which occured in each of the last three years. Cancer has stricken her colon, pancreas, left lung, pancreas again, and liver. Ginsburg also has a history of heart surgery, fractured ribs, and various gallbladder conditions and infections.
Although her health has been failing in recent years, she has continually managed to keep up with her duties as an Associate Justice, studying and debating cases from home and even from within hospitals.
Supreme Court nominations are for life. Only a resignation or an impeachment can remove a sitting Justice. There are calls for Ginsburg to retire and to preserve her health, but she remains adamant in her decision to stay on the court.
It all comes down to politics. While Supreme Court Justices are supposed to be fair and unbiased, most are either conservative or liberal. This gives the court a delicate balance to uphold between ideals.
As a reminder, Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President of the United States and approved by the Senate.
President Trump has nominated two justices in his first term, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. This gives the court a 5-4 conservative swing, although Chief Justice Roberts is known to be more moderate in his decisions.
If Ginsburg were to step down in 2020, President Trump has promised to jump at a replacement, with a Republican-held Senate all but ensuring the approval of the nomination. This would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority. And with young conservative justices, this majority could last for decades.
However, there is some contention over the Senate approval process. In 2016, the Republican-led Senate refused to take action on President Obama’s nomination to succeed Justice Scalia after his death.
House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained the decision: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”
This precedent became known as The McConnell Rule, which says that vacancies in the court during an election year should be decided upon after the election.
However, the next vacancy was in 2018, a Midterm election year, and the Republican Senate decided to fill the seat before the election, claiming the rule only applied to Presidential election years.
In 2020, several GOP leaders have promised to fill any vacancies before the election, claiming the rule does not apply when the President and Senate belong to the same party.
So this is why Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health came under strong scrutiny. Her death or resignation would result in an flurry of Senate activity, a slew of court battles, and continued bad blood between parties. Her replacement could determine a whole generation of court decisions and precedents, which could drastically change the American landscape, for better or for worse.
If Joe Biden wins the election and Democrats take the Senate, it is likely Ginsburg would retire to allow for a liberal replacement.
But if President Trump wins re-election and Republicans keep hold of the Senate, there will be several more years to make conservative replacements in the case of a death or retirement.
Come Election Day, the Supreme Court will be heavy on voters’ minds as they enter the polling booths. Both sides of the aisle will fight hard to sway the highest and most influential court in the land to their side.
Marcos Barrios is a Florida National News contributing writer. The avid writer and musician is passionate about politics and entertainment in Florida and abroad.