Washington September 23, 2020 – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke on the Senate floor on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Republican rush to jam through a nominee to fill her vacancy less than 47 days before a presidential election.
“I rise today in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a role model to many and a champion for all and I was one of those.
I’d like to speak about what is at stake for the American public with this vacancy on the court, and why whoever is elected president in November should be the one who decides to fill the seat.
Justice Ginsburg was, simply put, a phenomenal lawyer and jurist. She was small and she was mighty. As a civil rights lawyer, she won key cases that established women’s constitutional right to equal treatment – and confirmed the principle of equal rights for all. And as a jurist, she further cemented these key principles into law. She brought them up and ensured they’d exist forever.
As a person she brought smiles to our faces, and now really does bring tears. Though small in stature, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a formidable advocate, strategist, and champion. She will continue to serve as a role model to generations of women, both young and old, for whom she paved the way and I am one of those.
We are in her debt today, and generations to come will be in her debt as well.
Justice Ginsburg is also important to me, personally. Her confirmation hearing was the first I participated in as a newly elected Senator, and as the first woman to sit on the Judiciary Committee in 1993. That was a long time ago.
As I said before the committee in 1993, it was not until I began preparing for Justice Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing that I learned how she had built the foundation for women’s rights.
Simply, put it was this:
Before becoming a judge on the D.C. Circuit, Justice Ginsburg was the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, where she won five cases before the Supreme Court. Amazing, five cases, before people believed women had these rights.
In one of these cases, Craig v. Boren, the Supreme Court held for the first time that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to a woman. Can you believe it? Actually applied to a woman. This is a very big addition because this really cancelled out inequality.
In other words, it is because of Justice Ginsburg’s advocacy as lawyer that the government cannot discriminate against women on the basis of sex. So, for the female side of this room, this was really a major person whose works enabled us to run for this esteemed body and be part of it.
It’s no surprise then that Justice Ginsburg remained a fierce defender of women from the bench.
- She consistently reaffirmed a woman’s right to choose and upheld Roe v. Wade against dozens of attacks.
- She invalidated the men’s-only [admission] policy at the Virginia Military Institute. Explaining this decision at a visit to V.M.I, Justice Ginsburg told cadets that she knew it “would make V.M.I. a better place.”
- And, in 2007, she vehemently dissented in a case where the court’s majority held that a woman, namely one Lily Ledbetter with whom we have become familiar, was time-barred from suing her employer for discrimination when she finally learned that her male colleagues had been paid more than her for several years.
Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in this case became the basis for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which we passed in 2009, making it possible to bring lawsuits when gender-based pay discrimination is actually uncovered.
As a testament to the legal giant that she was, Justice Ginsburg’s accomplishments on behalf of women are just one part of her legacy — and that legacy I strongly believe will be honored for years to come.
She died last Friday, just 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.
Importantly, under a Republican standard adopted in 2016, the Senate should not consider a Supreme Court nomination until after the inauguration of the next president — whomever that may be.
Until recently Republicans had been intent [to follow] their own standard, which they used to block consideration of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s seat on the Court.
Now, can we have one have one set of rules for Democratic presidents and another for Republican ones? I think not. To allow otherwise undermines not only our faith in Congress, but also the faith of people that we’re going to stick by what we say and be impartial in the judicial system.
Now, just 41 days from the election, Senate Republicans must abide by their own standard.
So what’s at stake? There’s a great deal of attention this week as to whom the president might select.
The simple truth, however, is this: No matter who President Trump nominates, fundamental rights and protections must be considered because they become at risk if the nominee doesn’t respond positively and effectively to these.
For example, in November, the court will hear a renewed legal challenge — brought by the Trump administration — to the Affordable Care Act.
Given President Trump’s promise to appoint a justice who would strike down the Affordable Care Act, health care access and protections for the nearly 130 million non-elderly Americans with pre-existing conditions are really in certain peril. And we have every reason for serious consideration and opposition if this protection isn’t continued.
It is unbelievable that during a pandemic that has already killed more than 200,000 Americans, this President and his allies are rushing a nomination that could leave up to 30 million Americans without health care. I hope that doesn’t happen.
The next justice will also decide cases concerning women’s reproductive rights, voting rights, access to justice, environmental protections, the rights of LGBT Americans and the rights of American workers.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion for all of these rights and protections. She is very hard to replace and it’s important to think of those rights that need continued protection when the replacement is made by the president.
We cannot allow the president and Senate Republicans to jam through a nominee who will undo this legacy which is so important to every American. Because every American has that legacy today and uses it virtually every day of their life.
So we are ready to fight, and we will do everything in our power to safeguard these hard-won rights and protections.
It’s really important, Mr. President. Of all the nominations I have sat as a fairly long-term member, since 1993 of the Judiciary Committee, these protections and rights are really all important and must be protected. So, they will be what we’re looking at when the nominee comes to the Senate.”