(NEXSTAR) – The nomination of a conservative to the United States Supreme Court as a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg would fundamentally shift the balance of the court to the right and likely ensure a conservative majority on many future cases before the court.
In the early days after the death of the 87-year-old liberal icon, most of the media attention has centered on the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell and Republicans for planning to force through a nomination with just over 40 days before the election, despite blocking Obama’s nomination in 2016 on the grounds that seven months was too close to an election for such a confirmation.
Still, it appears the Democrats have few options for blocking the confirmation if the Republicans can gain the necessary 50 votes in the Senate and a tie-breaker from Vice President Mike Pence.
So what can Democrats actually do in response? Here are a few of the options being floated:
Second Impeachment: One of the few options to attempt a delay of the confirmation process is a new impeachment attempt against the president or his attorney general. In theory, an impeachment trial in the Senate might serve to delay the confirmation and help run out the clock on the Trump administration after the election. When asked about the possibility on ABC Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos “We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now.”
It’s not clear how successful such bid would be preventing a confirmation between the November election and inauguration day in January. Of course, this option would be moot if Trump again surprises pollsters and claims victory in November.
Court Packing: The most talked-about response is to rebalance the court by adding members to the Supreme Court. Assuming former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election in November and Dems take control of the Senate – both fairly hefty ifs – Democrats could pass a law expanding the court by two or even four judges, swinging the balance back to the left and negating the seats gained by the GOP.
This move has been considered politically risky in the past, even FDR saw his reputation tarnished by trying to make it happen. Still, Democrats are taking a “nothing is off the table” mentality after the move to replace RBG.
Adding States: Some Democrats have long argued that the senate is not truly representative of the country because it gives Wyoming’s 578,000 citizens the same number of votes as California’s 40 million, thereby swinging the chamber to the right of national popular opinion. One idea to change that balance may be gaining momentum among Democratic voices in the wake of the GOP Supreme Court push: adding states.
Residents of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have felt disenfranchised by their lack of representation in Washington, and a renewed push to give those two territories statehood could add reliable democratic votes to the Senate. Though there are several steps to statehood, a Democratically-controlled Congress would be able to clear many of the obstacles. Historically though, polling suggests that adding states could be unpopular with a wide majority of Americans.
All three of the scenarios involve weighty political risk on the part of the Democrats, and each would require them to claim the presidency in November to be successful.