Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight
Majority in poll before Ginsburg's death supported holding hearings in 2020
A majority of Americans said in a new poll conducted prior to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death that the Senate should hold confirmation hearings on a Supreme Court nominee for any vacancy this year.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans said in a Marquette University poll released Saturday that hearings should be held, while 32 percent said the Senate should not consider a nominee to the high court in an election year.
Results did not significantly vary along party lines, with 71 percent of independents, 68 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats saying confirmation hearings should be held.
The survey was conducted Sept. 8 to Sept. 15, with responses gathered just days before Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
The poll results come as battle lines are drawn in Washington over a potential Senate fight to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ginsburg's death with fewer than 50 days to go before the November election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already said that the Senate would move to fill the opening on the high court.
"Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise," McConnell said in a statement Friday shortly after news broke of Ginsburg's death.
"President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate," McConnell said.
The remark sparked fury from Democrats, who noted that McConnell played an instrumental role in blocking former President Obama from confirming a Supreme Court nominee in 2016 following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans held the seat open throughout that year's presidential election, allowing Trump to put forward his own nominee in early 2017.
The Marquette poll found that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum disagreed with the GOP's decision to block Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
Seventy-three percent of Americans in the poll said blocking Garland from receiving a confirmation hearing was the wrong thing to do, including 84 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.
The likely partisan fight over Ginsburg's replacement is expected to emerge as a top issue for both the Biden and Trump campaigns in the final 45-day sprint to the election.
Trump did not remark Friday on a possible nominee, but former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday night that the winner of the Nov. 3 election should get to pick who succeeds Ginsburg.
"There is no doubt - let me be clear - that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said.
Majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters said the issue of the next Supreme Court appointment is important, with 89 percent of Biden backers saying it was "very" or "somewhat" important and 85 percent of Trump supporters saying the same, according to the Marquette poll.
Polls released in recent weeks have shown that voters trust Biden more to pick the next Supreme Court justice, with a Fox News poll out last week showing Biden with a 7-point edge over Trump regarding who voters trust to fill a vacancy.
The Marquette University poll surveyed 1,523 adults and has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.