Philly braces for Supreme Court fight

A placard depicting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is displayed next to the U.S. Supreme Court, as people gather following her death, in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

“Everything is at stake.”

That’s what Councilwoman Helen Gym, perhaps the city’s leading progressive, said about the importance of the fight to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

President Donald Trump has indicated he will announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on Saturday, and he would seem to have enough support in the U.S. Senate to bring his appointment to a vote.

Among those willing to consider Trump’s pick is Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who has been criticized for backing the GOP’s successful effort to block hearings on Merrick Garland, a judge nominated by President Barack Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

“The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different,” Toomey said in a statement. “While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party.”

“The Senate’s historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances,” he continued.

It’s the same argument being made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday called on Toomey to reverse course, saying it would be “an unconscionable error to rush into a nomination when the people of Pennsylvania and the nation as a whole will make clear their wishes for the future of our country in a few short weeks.”

Mayor Jim Kenney agrees. A spokesman said the mayor believes the public should have a say in the process through voting in the upcoming presidential election, and that the Senate should follow the same procedure as the Garland nomination.

Wolf said the next Supreme Court Justice will likely be involved in ruling on a number of topics, including health care and abortion rights.

“At a time when vital issues that affect the lives, health and safety of Pennsylvanians are being brought for consideration before the highest court in the nation, our leaders must proceed with great care and deliberation,” the governor added.

City Councilwoman Helen Gym speaks during a rally last month outside Comcast headquarters. She said the fight over Ginsburg’s replacement could shape the court for generations to come. PHOTO: Metro FilePHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Gym said the Senate is “bound and determined to undermine civil rights here in the U.S. from voting right to racial justice to labor rights to women’s rights.”

“They are all at risk in favor of political jockeying that could have the potential to change our courts for generations,” she told Metro.

Gym said she was “wrecked” when she heard about Ginsburg’s death. She talks to her children about how the late justice rose from difficult circumstances to become “a warrior among warriors.”

She said she’s inspired by Ginsburg’s early career, when, shut out of prestigious legal positions due to the prevailing sexism, she turned to activism.

“I can’t underscore enough the type of impact she had for women and for people who believe strongly in the law and policies and change in America,” Gym said.