Most Americans balk at Republicans' Supreme Court scheme

Republicans may prefer to pretend the public is with them on their Supreme Court scheme, but the evidence to the contrary is tough to miss.
Image: US Supreme Court
Officials stand on the Supreme Court steps on Capitol Hill on Sept. 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

Four years ago, when Senate Republicans launched an unprecedented, 10-month blockade against a sitting president's Supreme Court nominee, GOP senators insisted they were merely trying to give voters a voice in the process. "Let voters decide," Republicans declared, arguing that the winner of the next presidential campaign -- six months away -- should fill a vacancy.

In 2020, those same Republicans have decided they no longer agree with themselves. To defend their nihilistic hypocrisy, many GOP senators are saying they're simply reflecting voters' will: Americans elected a Republican president and Republican-led Senate, so they're justified in ramming through a high court nominee while millions cast their ballots.

Part of the problem is the popular vote: more voters preferred Donald Trump's opponent, and more Americans cast ballots for Democratic Senate candidates than Republican candidates.

But the other part of the problem is that a majority of Americans are not on board with the GOP's scheme.

Nearly six in 10 Americans say that the president elected in November should be the one to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.... All told, 59% say the winner of the upcoming presidential election should choose the person to fill Ginsburg's seat, including 97% of Democrats, 59% of independents and 17% of Republicans.... In the new poll, 41% say Trump should make an appointment to the seat now.

The results from the CNN poll come on the heels of a New York Times report from the weekend, which noted two polls taken shortly before Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing -- one national survey, and one polling three battleground states -- both found voters preferring Joe Biden specifically on the issue of selecting Supreme Court justices. In fact, in both polls, Biden's lead on this issue was larger than his overall lead over Trump, suggesting even some Americans who don't intend to vote for Biden nevertheless trust him on this issue more than the incumbent president.

There are also private surveys to consider. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Among some of the president's advisers, jitters stem from a recent internal Republican poll discussed among officials in the White House and the Trump campaign this week that contained an alarming range of signs about the vacancy, according to people who reviewed it. The poll — conducted over the weekend among about 1,500 likely voters in 17 swing states, including Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — showed that 51 percent of voters said they trust Biden more than Trump to handle the vacancy, while only 43 percent said they trusted Trump.

The same Republican-commissioned poll reportedly found a 52% majority in these battleground states believe the Senate should wait until after the election to proceed with the Supreme Court confirmation process.

Republicans may prefer to pretend the public is with them on their high-court gambit, but the evidence to the contrary is tough to miss.