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Bill Clinton slams Mitch McConnell's 'power play' after U-turn on picking SC judge before election

The former president has slammed the Senate majority leader as 'hypocritical' on his inconsistent stances over choosing successors to Antonin Scalia and RBG
Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mitch McConnell (Getty Images)
Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mitch McConnell (Getty Images)

Former president Bill Clinton, who had appointed iconic Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away recently, has ripped into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over his “power play” to rush through with the late judge’s replacement. The 78-year-old Kentucky senator has come under heavy criticism over what is being perceived as hypocrisy since it was him who had refused to even hold a hearing for the replacement of Justice Antonin Scalia who died in 2016. He had said on that occasion that since it was an election year, the replacement should wait till a new president takes over. This time, however, his stance is different.

On Friday night, September 18, McConnell vowed to call a voting for whoever President Donald Trump nominated as her replacement, irking the Democrats. It was because of McConnell’s resistance that Merrick Garland, who then-president Barack Obama chose as Scalia’s replacement, did not even get a hearing and the apex court was left with only eight justices till 2017 when Trump picked Neil Gorsuch. With an even number of judges, the SC was always in danger of being left paralyzed in crucial issues but yet political wrestling prevailed.  

People gather to mourn the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the steps in front of the Supreme Court on September 18, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

First value for McConnell and Trump is power, says Clinton

On Sunday, September 20, Clinton lashed out at McConnell while speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper. He said: “This is what they do. Both for Senator McConnell and President Trump, their first value is power and they're trying to fill the court with as many ideological judges as they can.”

“It’s a power play, and they think they can do it,” the 42nd president of the US said, adding that McConnell’s actions were “hypocritical”. 

“Well, of course, it's superficially hypocritical call, isn't it? I mean Mitch McConnell wouldn't give President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing 10 months before the presidential election. And that meant we went a long time with eight judges on the court,” the 74-year-old, who served in the office between 1993 and 2001, said. 

The next presidential election is less than 50 days away. The Democrats, who have been eyeing for an expansion of the Supreme Court as the institution has turned more in favor of the conservatives in the times of Trump, have threatened to pack it with justices of their liking if they do well in the November election to flip the Senate and bag the presidency.

“To be fair, there is a case to be made for the argument McConnell made that in the middle of a presidential season, you should give the voters a say, that's what he said when it was 10 months away. But when the shoe is on the other foot and he wants a judge, we're fewer than 50 days away and that argument doesn't cut any mustard,' Clinton said, adding that “it's going to further spread cynicism in our system and, you know, he said he wouldn't do it”.

Clinton, who called Ginsburg “a magnificent judge and a wonderful person” after her death, had appointed her to the SC in June 1993 to replace the late Byron White who decided to retire. Ginsburg, who was of Jewish descent, was only the second woman to have served in the apex court after Sandra Day O’Connor. 

Trump said he will pick a woman

The conservative camp is eager to find a replacement of choice for the late Ginsburg who is seen as a liberal stalwart. Trump has already given an indication that he will nominate a woman to be Ginsburg’s successor and the nomination will be put forward next week. “It will be a woman. I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men,” said the US president at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Saturday, September 19.

US Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Cathlolic, could be the candidate to replace Ginsburg, if several reports are to be believed. Trump described her as “very respected” when specifically asked about Barrett who he had chosen as one of four finalists while looking for the replacement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in 2018. He eventually settled for Brett Kavanaugh on that occasion.