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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why is RBG so important to the US Senate?
September 19, 2020
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Ruth Bader Ginsberg, US Supreme Court Judge and pioneering advocate of women’s rights, has died aged 87. She died on Friday at her home in Washington. RBG was considered an icon of the Democratic Party, and her death has thrown American politics, at a time of heightened turmoil and uncertainty, into murky waters.
Why is RBG so important to the Senate?
RBG sat at the top of the US justice system, and the ideological balance of the USA’s Supreme Court has been thrown into deep uncertainty with her death.
RBG served for 27 years at the top of the country’s judiciary – the Supreme Court in America is made up of top lawyers, and it is the highest court in the land.
The ultimate judicial power of the USA is vested in the Supreme Court and it decides on cases affecting the entire country.
The Supreme Court has the final say on often highly contentious laws, disputes between states and federal Government, and appeals regarding executions.
RBG was originally appointed in 1993 by then-president Bill Clinton, and justices are appointed by a president when one either retires or dies.
Donald Trump has said he wants to nominate a successor without delay, meaning he will put in a Republican nomination – greatly upsetting the balance of the court.
The US President tweeted on Saturday he considered it an “obligation” to put forward a nominee, who if confirmed would tilt the balance of the court decisively towards the conservatives.
Mr Trump tweeted: “We [Republicans] were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”
What does this mean for American politics?
This means the Republicans will have full control of two of the arms of the US Government – the Supreme Court and the Senate.
Appointing a new member in an election year is a highly controversial move – especially when the Republicans blocked the exact same motion made by Barack Obama in his second term of presidency.
The appointment would have an impact which could last a generation – Republicans have made it a priority to overturn Roe v Wade – a seminal abortion law which was one of the most divisive decisions ever seen in US court history.
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This will also change the outlook significantly for the Affordable Care Act, immigration, voting rights and the role of money in US politics.
Renowned for her outstanding legal career, RBG was the daughter of Jewish immigrants in New York and attended Harvard Law School as one of the only women in her year.
On the Supreme Court, Bader Ginsburg developed a reputation as a tough questioner and emerged as part of its liberal faction with little tolerance for sexual discrimination.
RBG became a feminist and national icon, revered by both Democrats and Republicans.
She did an incredible amount of work toward legal equality for women, including seminal work on abortion rights and other work on gay rights.
Later in life, she faced considerable health conditions and was treated for colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and 2019 and lung cancer in December 2018.
She consistently resisted calls for her retirement.
In one of her last statements, reported by her granddaughter, she said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”