(VM) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the longest-serving member of the court’s liberal minority, died Friday night after a struggle with pancreatic cancer, touching off both tributes and a war of words about filling her seat in a fraught election year. She was 87.
Virginia sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, called her a “giant.”
Warner said history would remember her as a “trailblazer and a voice for liberty and equality.”
Kaine, in a statement, said she left behind a “legal system far fairer than the one she found as one of only nine women in her first-year Harvard Law class.”
Kaine added: “As a litigator, she rid our country of statutes that discriminated against women who were breadwinners and men who were child-rearers. As a justice, her majority opinions opened Virginia’s last all-male public school to women and freed people with disabilities from the isolating confines of institutions. Just as famously, she was uncompromising when the court erred on issues of equality and fundamental rights, penning dissents that sharply defended the Voting Rights Act and women’s access to reproductive health care, all while reminding us ‘you can disagree without being disagreeable.’”
Citing the “Scalia precedent” set by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Kaine urged the Senate to “wait until after the next inauguration before considering a nominee” for the seat. McConnell famously refused to allow a vote on a nominee by Democratic President Barack Obama to fill the seat of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, also an election year.
Ginsburg’s own wish, from her death bed, was that she not be replaced until there’s a “new president,” according to an NPR report.
“He will do everything he can to ensure that this Supreme Court seat is not filled until then,” a statement from Kaine’s office says.
However, McConnell said President Donald Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” which is controlled by Republicans.