Will the Senate Follow Its Own Precedent?

Will the Senate Follow Its Own Precedent?


The Supreme Court is all about setting precedent, right? The Senate, apparently not so much. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Mourners during a vigil to honor the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday.


Would the public hold it against Republicans if they reversed their 2016 position and hastily confirmed a Trump nominee to serve on the Supreme Court? For now, polling can’t offer a simple answer to that question.

But thanks to a number of recent surveys, we have some relevant data points to consider as the debate over replacing Ginsburg begins.

All things being equal, most voters have consistently said they would prefer Biden to choose the next justice, not Trump. As Nate Cohn noted in an analysis this weekend, that pro-Biden tilt is reflected in a recent Fox News poll of likely voters nationwide, as well as in a range of New York Times /Siena College surveys conducted this month in battleground states. In those polls, Biden’s advantage on trust to name a justice ran just ahead of his lead over Trump in the horse race, but the numbers were close.

In a national Marquette University Law School poll last year, Americans said by a margin of 56 percent to 32 percent that they had little confidence in Trump to pick “the right kind of person” to be the next justice.

Yet in a separate Marquette poll just days before Ginsburg’s death, most respondents across political parties said that in a hypothetical situation, if a Supreme Court seat opened up this year and Trump nominated someone to fill it, the Senate should move ahead with confirmation hearings.

At the same time, liberal voters are likely to be fired up over the prospect of letting conservatives cement a court majority that could endure for decades to come. This month’s Marquette survey found that even before Ginsburg’s death sent a wave of anxiety through the party’s liberal base, Democratic voters were slightly more concerned about the Supreme Court than were Republicans. Among likely voters supporting Biden, roughly three in five said that the naming of the next justice would be a very important motivating factor in their vote, compared with just 51 percent of Trump’s supporters.

That result was in line with other recent surveys from CNN and the Pew Research Center, both of which found that Democratic voters were more likely than Republican voters to say that nominations to the Supreme Court would be a highly important voting issue.


“If the election were held today, we would win it all,” Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, says in the premiere of “Sway.”

On the first episode of Kara Swisher’s new podcast, she probes Pelosi about the ambitions — and limits — of her influence. As one of the most powerful women in American politics, what can Pelosi get done, and what is she powerless against?

Kara: “You’re the Speaker of the House and you haven’t spoken to the president in almost a year. Do you get a sense that you should be speaking to him given you are the most powerful Democrat at this moment?”

Pelosi: “I speak to him every day in the public domain. That’s how he hears things. I want to have a witness to what I have to say to him.”

Listen to the interview with Pelosi and subscribe to “Sway” for a new episode every Monday and Thursday.

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