The Bulletin

Virginia politicians react to death of Supreme Court justice, political battle over filling her seat

By: - September 19, 2020 9:55 am

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers remarks at the Georgetown Law Center on September 12, 2019, in Washington, DC. Justice Ginsburg spoke to over 300 attendees about the Supreme Court’s previous term. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the longest-serving member of the court’s liberal minority, died Friday night after a struggle with pancreatic cancer, touching off both tributes and a war of words about filling her seat in a fraught election year.

Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, called her a “giant.”

Warner said history would remember her as a “trailblazer and a voice for liberty and equality.”

Kaine, in a statement, said she left behind a “legal system far fairer than the one she found as one of only nine women in her first-year Harvard Law class.”

Kaine added: “As a litigator, she rid our country of statutes that discriminated against women who were breadwinners and men who were child-rearers. As a justice, her majority opinions opened Virginia’s last all-male public school to women and freed people with disabilities from the isolating confines of institutions. Just as famously, she was uncompromising when the court erred on issues of equality and fundamental rights, penning dissents that sharply defended the Voting Rights Act and women’s access to reproductive health care, all while reminding us ‘you can disagree without being disagreeable.'”

Citing the “Scalia precedent” set by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Kaine urged the Senate to “wait until after the next inauguration before considering a nominee” for the seat. McConnell famously refused to allow a vote on a nominee by Democratic President Barack Obama to fill the seat of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, also an election year.

Ginsburg’s own wish, from her death bed, was that she not be replaced until there’s a “new president,” according to an NPR report.

“He will do everything he can to ensure that this Supreme Court seat is not filled until then,” a statement from Kaine’s office says.

However, McConnell said President Donald Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” which is controlled by Republicans.

Other Virginia reactions:

Gov. Ralph Northam:

Attorney General Mark Herring: 

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax: 

U.S. Rep. Don McEachin, D-Richmond:

U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt:

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Montross:

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg:

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem:

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Norfolk:

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News:

U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson:

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Alexandria:

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax:

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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers and was previously editor of the Virginia Mercury. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected]