The White House is quietly preparing to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she missed the first oral arguments hearing of her 25-year career on the high court.
The 85-year-old justice has shown remarkable constitution during her quarter-century on the Supreme Court, bouncing back from cancer scares, heart surgery, and broken bones to maintain an impressive attendance record. Ginsburg is currently recovering after having cancerous nodules removed from her left lung on Dec. 21.
“Gingerly preparations are underway, not just for Ginsburg but for any SCOTUS retirement,” a source involved with the administration’s last two Supreme Court nominations told the Daily Caller.
A second source assured the Daily Caller that very few preparations are needed since the White House already has the infrastructure in place to replace a retiring justice at a moment’s notice. The Trump administration has already seen the Supreme Court through two transitions with the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, a highly touted accomplishment by the president as he enters his third year in the Oval Office.
A fresh start
White House counsel Pat Cipollone would take the lead on selecting candidates for the president to review after Don McGahn left the administration in October. Cipillone is an experienced conservative litigator with extensive ties in Washington.
“By appointing Pat, Trump made sure he has a White House counsel who is both able to handle the investigation and a movement conservative philosophically aligned with the base of the party,” said American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp.
If the president is leaning one way or the other when it comes to a potential justice-in-waiting, he hasn’t indicated a favorite. “Trump has figured out there are some things you keep close to the vest. He likes to be the explainer-in-chief but understands there’s a downside to sharing too much,” Schlapp added.
John Malcolm, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, praised Cipollone for keeping “very bright movement conservatives” around him as staffers, and he expressed confidence in the new White House counsel’s ability to stock the Supreme Court with viable conservative appointees.
Malcolm also hinted that Ginsburg’s replacement could be a woman, noting that “there would be a lot of pressure to appoint a woman, I would think that one person the president would seriously look at would be Amy Coney Barrett.”
Barrett currently presides over the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and she was on the president’s shortlist to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy this summer. During her confirmation hearing in September 2017, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) attacked Barrett’s faith, arguing that the judge’s religion was “of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
Feinstein was criticized for applying a religious test to the confirmation process, although Barrett responded by saying that it is “never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
Hopefully, Justice Ginsburg experiences a speedy recovery. But if she does retire while Trump is in office, the president appears to have the right people in place to find a qualified conservative candidate to fill the position.