One day after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, political representatives from across the state — including Western New York — 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,” 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.”
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,” 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 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.”
Other state leaders have expressed their condolences of Justice Ginsburg’s death hours.
Congressman Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, called Justice Ginsburg “a force on the Supreme Court, never compromising her values, and impacting our nation for decades to come.”
“She served our nation with integrity, was a role model for many, and raised the standard for debate and discourse. As the second woman to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court she broke barriers and all Americans, regardless of ideology, should recognize her incredible achievement and mourn her loss,” Jacobs said in a statement. “My deepest condolences and prayers are with her family.”
U.S. Sen. Kirstin E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a prepared statement that “the world has lost a giant.”
“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,” Gillibrand said. ”Justice Ginsburg will forever be a feminist icon who inspired generations of young women – myself included – to follow their dreams, break through barriers and never let gender stand in the way. She will be deeply missed and my prayers are with her family and friends.”
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.”
New York State Interim Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rose, Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown and the Board of Regents issued a joint statement that called Justice Ginsburg’s death “truly devastating.”
“Justice Ginsburg was more than an inspirational litigator, she was one of the greatest advocates for justice and equality that our country has ever known. She fought tenaciously and did so with determination and grace. She was a hero to many and gave a voice to girls and women everywhere,” the statement said. “We must and we will honor her legacy by continuing to fight for every child in New York to have access to a high-quality education, regardless of where they come from or where they live.” the statement said.
CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan said in a statement that Justice Ginsberg’s “work in defending the law helped greatly advance civil rights, women’s rights and labor rights in this country. The incredible legacy she leaves behind must never be forgotten as we carry her memory with us while union members continue her fight to secure the rights for all people.”
Nate McMurray, a Democrat who is challenging Jacobs for the 27th Congressional District seat, said ”Justice Ginsburg fought for all that she achieved” and “encouraged Americans of all ages to ‘fight for the things you care about.’ With reverence and renewed spirit, we will continue to do just that.”
New York State Bar Association President Scott M. Karson said Justice Ginsburg “never forgot her roots in Brooklyn or at Columbia Law School, returning often to inspire young law students who were in awe of her. She was a staunch defender of women’s rights and a trailblazer for women in the legal profession and on the bench. It was because of Justice Ginsburg that many women dared to become lawyers at a time when such a career path was viewed with skepticism.”
Karson said now was not the time to speculate and debate about Justice Ginsburg’s replacement. Instead, “now is the time to express our collective thanks to the late Justice for her remarkable career as an advocate, jurist and champion of the Constitution.”
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.
Smullen, who represents the 118th Assembly District, 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.”
Includes additional reporting by Regional Editor Ben Beagle.